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Savvy’s Best of 2014 List

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I cannot believe how quickly 2014 has flown by, and I also cannot believe I read more than 150 books this year. 2015 will be a year of changes for me, as I pull back from reviewing and reading so many books here on Savvy Verse & Wit as I start my own business, Poetic Book Tours.

I did want to share with my readers here the best books of 2014, in case you missed the day-by-day announcements on the Facebook page.

  1. Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James (my review)
  2. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (my review)
  3. Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall (my review)
  4. Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya (my review)
  5. Going Over by Beth Kephart (my review)
  6. The Descent by Alma Katsu (my review)
  7. Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos (my review)
  8. A Long Time Gone by Karen White (my review)
  9. The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch (my review)
  10. Children’s Activity Atlas from Sterling Publishing (my review)
  11. Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (my review)
  12. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert (my review)

What books have made your end of the year favorites??

The Descent by Alma Katsu

Source: Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster
Paperback, 352 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Descent by Alma Katsu is the third and final installment in The Taker series (there could be spoilers), and it will blow readers away with its creativity, nuance, and multilayered story.  Book series tend to taper off for readers in terms of depth of story and the ability to surprise, but Katsu’s Taker series has transcended levels with each installment.  Exploring the darker side of humanity, tackling the idea of redemption, and exploring what it means to love and commit to something or someone who is a virtual mystery.

“Frightening things lurked in basements, and the fortress was no exception.  My knees went a little weak as I set off, but before long I managed to find a staircase.  Removing a candle from one of the sconces, I descended the stairs as quietly as possible, only too aware that any noise I made would rattle and rumble down the cavernous stairwell and let anyone within earshot know I was coming.  A slight draft wafted up from the bottom, which was lost in darkness.  The breeze carried a bitter tang of rot and decay.” (page 210)

Despite her fears and frightful beginnings with Adair, Lanore has been fighting her connection to him, but when nightmares surface about her childhood love, Jonathan, being tortured, she has little choice but to seek out the man she fears and desires.  Adair and Lanore have a relationship that is a force unlike any other, and while their relationship can be deeply satisfying, it can be frightening.  While her own walls have kept her from trusting and falling completely for him, Adair’s had time to do his own work to make himself worthy of her.  Tip-toeing around their feelings, Lanore and Adair also must confront the outside forces working against them, conspiring to not only keep them apart but also seeking revenge on Adair for his past transgressions.

Lanore McIlvrae has said herself that her immortality has made her immune to the emotional response many feel at the point of death, and even as she descends into the underworld, her fears are muted.  Confronting demons and her own past transgressions give her pause on her journey to save Jonathan, but she only begins to fear the worst when she comes face-to-face with the deadliest of nightmares — a god scorned.

Beyond the intricate relationships and the dark and unexpected past of Adair, Katsu has taken the time to weave in elemental powers, myths and legends, and witchcraft and magic so seamlessly that the world becomes real.  Her characters are dynamic and flawed, but at the same time redeemable — but only if they make unselfish choices even at the risk of losing their own lives and souls.  Shifting from Adair’s past in 1200s Italy and other time periods, Katsu provides a clearer picture of one of the most enigmatic and enthralling characters in this mind-bending novel.  She has crafted a novel that peers behind the veil between the human and spiritual world and demonstrates that even gods can make mistakes.  A stunning end to a brilliant trilogy.

About the Author:

Alma Katsu’s debut, The Taker, has been compared to the early work of Anne Rice, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining the historical, supernatural and fantasy in one story. The novel was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by the American Library Association and rights have sold been in 16 languages. The Reckoning, the second book in the trilogy, was published in June 2012, and the third and final book, The Descent, will be published in January 2014. The Taker Trilogy is published by Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster and Century/Random House UK.  Katsu lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu.  Visit her Website, Facebook page, and Twitter.

2nd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; this is set in Italy.

 

 

2nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Mailbox Monday #250

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  December’s host is Rose City Reader.

***The Mailbox Monday poll found that most bloggers preferred the Mailbox Monday blog to be the permanent home for the meme beginning in January.***

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston came unexpectedly from the publisher.

In her small Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She has never spoken, and her silence as well as the magic she can’t quite control make her a mystery. Concerned for her safety, her mother quickly arranges a marriage with Cai Bevan, the widower from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumours that swirl around her. After their wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving, but she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the rugged mountains that surround it, while slowly Cai himself begins to win her heart. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her love, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

2.  Return to Tradd Street by Karen White for review from the publisher.

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

3.  Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour in January.

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

4.  Taking What I Like by Linda Bamber for review for a TLC Book Tour in January.

Linda Bamber has combined her love of fiction from the past with her propensity to shake things up, taking what she likes and gleefully sharing it with us. As entertaining and contemporary as these stories are, they also remind us what we, too, love about the classic texts she takes apart and reassembles. Bamber’s tales, like the best translations, exist independently while reminding us not to forget the plays and novels they treat. Alternating between admiration and attitude, the stories layer their plots with commentary, history, and politics, pausing as they build only to make room for the sanity and wit of the authorial voice. Emotional and genuine, these stories are also playful, inventive, and hilariously funny. From her long study of the Bard, Bamber has absorbed some of Shakespeare’s own empathy, understanding, and expressive flair. It is not too much to say that her work takes its place in the same literary sphere as the works it engages.

5.  Pieces of the Heart by Karen White from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

To escape the stress from her all-consuming job as an accountant, Caroline Collier joins her overbearing mother at the family’s vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina. But the serene beauty of Lake Ophelia cannot heal Caroline’s heart, which is still broken by the loss of her younger brother, who died when she was seventeen. And the tension between her and her mother still simmers. Only their neighbors, the husband and daughter of one of Caroline’s childhood friends, seem able to penetrate her cool reserve, giving Caroline the courage to face her biggest fears-and dive headfirst into life.

6.  The Color of Light by Karen White from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

With a lyrical Southern voice, White delivers an emotionally moving novel of a woman in search of a new beginning and a man haunted by the past.At thirty-two, pregnant and recently divorced, Jillian Parrish and her seven-year-old daughter find refuge and solace on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Jillian had experienced her best childhood memories here-until her best friend Lauren Mills disappeared, never to be found. At the time, Linc Rising, Lauren’s boyfriend and Jillian’s confidant, had been a suspect in Lauren’s disappearance. Now he’s back on Pawleys Island-renovating the old Mills house. And as ghosts of the past are resurrected, and Jillian’s daughter begins having eerie conversations with an imaginary friend named Lauren, Jillian and Linc will uncover the truth about Lauren’s disappearance and about the feelings they have buried for sixteen years.

7.  Still Love in Strange Places by Beth Kephart from my SantaThing at LibraryThing.

When Beth Kephart met and fell in love with the artist who would become her husband, she had little knowledge of the place he came from—an exotic coffee farm high in the jungle hills of El Salvador, a place of terrifying myths and even more frightening realities, of civil war and devastating earthquakes. Yet, marriage, she finds, means taking in not only the stranger who is one’s lover but also a stranger’s history—in this case, a country, language, people, and culture utterly foreign to a young American woman. Kephart’s transcendently lyrical prose (often compared to the work of Annie Dillard) has already made her a National Book Award finalist. In each of her memoirs she has written about love, using her own life to seek out universal truths.

8.   Books and Reading: A Book of Quotations edited by Bill Bradfield from my SantaThing from LibraryThing.

Over 450 memorable quotes about books and reading from writers, political figures, and celebrities. With provocative declarations from John Keats, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt, James Thurber, and Oprah Winfrey, among others. A handy aid for speech writers and public speakers, this entertaining collection will delight anyone who loves books.

9.  The Descent by Alma Katsu for review from the publisher.

Lanore McIlvrae has been on the run from Adair for hundreds of years, dismayed by his mysterious powers and afraid of his temper. She betrayed Adair’s trust and imprisoned him behind a stone wall to save Jonathan, the love of her life. When Adair was freed 200 years later, she was sure that he would find her and make her existence a living hell. But things turned out far different than she’d imagined.

Four years later, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home, where he has been living in self-imposed exile, to ask for a favor. She wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so she may beg the Queen of the Underworld to release Jonathan, whom she has been keeping as her consort. Will Lanore honor her promise to Adair to return? Or is her intention to reunite with Jonathan at any cost?

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #239

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  September’s host is Book Dragon’s Lair.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Artist’s Way for Parents by Julia Cameron, which I received for review from Finn Partners.

“For decades, people have been asking me to write this book. The Artist’s Way focuses on a creative recovery. We re-cover the ground we have traveled in our past. The Artist’s Way for Parents focuses on creative cultivation, where we consciously—and playfully—put our children on a healthy creative path toward the future.” —Julia Cameron

From the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way comes the most highly requested addition to Julia Cameron’s canon of work on the creative process. The Artist’s Way for Parents provides an ongoing spiritual toolkit that parents can enter—and re-enter—at any pace and at any point in their child’s early years.

2. Adé by Rebecca Walker, which I received for a TLC Book Tour in November.

When Farida, a sophisticated college student, falls in love with Adé, a young Swahili man living on an idyllic island off the coast of Kenya, the two plan to marry and envision a simple life together—free of worldly possessions and concerns. But when Farida contracts malaria and finds herself caught in the middle of a civil war, reality crashes in around them. The lovers’ solitude is interrupted by a world in the throes of massive upheaval that threatens to tear them apart, along with all they cherish.

3.  The Descent by Alma Katsu, which I received for review from the publisher.

Lanore McIlvrae has been on the run from Adair for hundreds of years, dismayed by his mysterious powers and afraid of his
violenteven murderoustemper. She betrayed Adair’s trust and imprisoned him behind a stone wall to save Jonathan, the love of her life. When Adair was freed 200 years later, she was sure that he would find her and make her existence a living hell. But things turned out far different than she’d imagined.

Four years later, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home, where he has been living in self-imposed exile, to ask for a favor. She wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so she may beg the Queen of the Underworld to release Jonathan, whom she has been keeping as her consort. Will Lanore honor her promise to Adair to return? Or is her intention to reunite with Jonathan at any cost?

What did you receive?

Short Story Friday: The Witch Sisters by Alma Katsu

typewriter short story friday

In addition the occasional book news on Fridays, Savvy Verse & Wit would like to introduce Short Story Friday, on which I will highlight a recent short story I’ve read and enjoyed either on Kindle or in book form. Today’s is an e-short story by Alma Katsu.

The Witch Sisters by Alma Katsu is an e-short story spin-off from The Taker series that continues the Gothic feel of her previous novels.  Adair finds himself in England on a nervous steed as he gallops through fens wood, a forest of many superstitions and secrets.  He seems to be still be on his journey to acquire magical knowledge, but he’s also already begun collect his consorts.  In the darkest of evenings, Adair meets Penthy, a fair-haired young woman, who lures him back to her cottage that she shares with her more wily sister, Bronwyn.

Adair is intrigued by these women living alone together in the woods, but he also is aware of his own power and gives into his own vanity, remaining with them for several days as they dote on him.  Readers will find this story a departure from the character depicted in Katsu’s first book, The Taker, but Adair is similar to the man who evolves into in The Reckoning.

“The forest here was not like forests elsewhere. The salty soil had turned it into a nightmarish landscape. It made trees into stunted hunchbacks, gnarled and twisting in on themselves.” (page 1)

Penthy is the more pliable sister, but Katsu’s description of her resembles Lanore in terms of her attractiveness and damaged nature.  It is easy for readers of the series to see why Adair would be attracted to her, but she is less like Lanore in that she allows her sister to lead the way.  These sisters are resourceful medicine women, and they pride themselves on the good they do for the village women.  It is not until they look beyond the sexual object in their cottage do they realize the magic they have at the tip of their fingers.

Readers looking for more of The Taker and Katsu’s characters, The Witch Sisters is a great way to reduce the angst of waiting for the third and final book in the series, but the story could have been longer and included more magic.  Readers may want more spells, illusion, and displacement either on the part of Adair under the control of the sisters or from Adair as he decides how best to punish these women — in true Adair fashion.

AlmaKatsuAbout the Author:

Alma Katsu lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. Her debut, The Taker, a Gothic novel of suspense, has been compared to the early work of Anne Rice and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.  The novel was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by the American Library Association and has developed an international following.  The Reckoning, the second book in the trilogy, was published in June 2012.  The Taker Trilogy is published byGallery Books/Simon Schuster.

Companion Club Recruiting NOW

the-takerThe Taker by Alma Katsu was a book I enjoyed for its paranormal elements, but also for its characters, Adair — who seemed like evil incarnate — and Lanore — a young woman obsessed with the local hottie. This novel is for adults, plain and simple, but it’s not just vampire or werewolf fluff. It is much more. A combination of historical fiction, paranormal magic, and romance, with a great nod to some literary greats, including a personal favorite of mine, Edgar Allan Poe. Check out more with my review.

 

RECKONINGThe Reckoning by Alma Katsu continues the journey of Lanore as she travels the globe and hide from Adair and his wrath. Believe me when I tell you that Adair is not an immortal man you want to make angry. For a second book, I was in awe — totally blown away by the characters and the story’s arc. Learn more with my review (though beware of spoilers).

Ok, so you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about these books and not about the final book, The Descent. I have to wait for its publication, that’s why!

In the meantime, I’ve joined Adair’s Companion Club! I’m actively soliciting companion’s for Adair and The Taker series because “50 shades” has nothing on him or these books.

As a companion, you get to talk about the books, promote local events where Adair and the books come together, and more. Check out the information on Alma Katsu’s blog to learn more and sign up for her newsletter.  Let us convert you with some decadence.

Literary Events Abound Sept. 28-30

September is a good month to watch the leaves change, experience the cool down in temperatures, and enjoy the local and not-so-local authors attending the book festivals in the Washington, D.C., area. While most know about The National Book Festival, Virginia’s Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University started this week on Sept. 26 and continues through this weekend. Among the authors expected are Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Rita Dove, Alice Walker, Katherine Boo, Karen Russell, and Amy Waldman. Over six days, readers and writers have the chance to meet 150 authors.

Alma Katsu, whose books (The Taker series) have been reviewed here, will be participating on a literary and genre fiction panel hosted by the National Book Festival that also features novelists Julianna Baggott and Louis Bayard as well as Salon.com founder and critic Laura Miller on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. In addition to literature, Fall for the Book Festival also offers panels on the election and how to tap political independents and navigate the political landscape as well as a higher education panel to look at the challenges ahead for universities.

Today’s events will be headlined by Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and at 7:30 p.m. he will receive the 2012 Mason Award for “extraordinary contributions in bringing literature to a wide reading public.” From memoirists to novelists and short story writers, today’s events offer a great deal for readers to check out, including a screening of The Color Purple at the Johnson Center Cinema and poet Cathy Park Hong.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, readers and families can attend the regional library book sale, a children’s book panel, a superheroes panel, a poetry reading, as well as the opportunity to visit with Laura Lippman, learn about political thrillers, and much more. On the final day of the festival, attendees can hear from Congressman Tim Ryan, check out the George Mason Alumni Reading, and check out writing from student writers at the Falling for the Story event. Check out the full schedule.

In addition to the Fall for the Book festival in Virginia, the D.C. area also can enjoy the Baltimore Book Festival, typically held during the same weekend as last weekend’s National Book Festival, starting today. This weekend, the Baltimore festival brings back Free Friday Feedback at 12 p.m., in which unpublished writers can bring three poems or up to five pages of double-spaced prose for some on-the-spot commentary from published writers. From book sales to performances by the Baltimore Public Schools, the festival offers entertainment focused on books, music, and more.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, during the My America Playwrights panel, Neil LaBute, Christopher Durang, and Lydia Diamond will talk about their roles as writers in theater and what it means to be a playwright. At 12 p.m. a tribute to activist poet Lucille Clifton, sponsored by Little Patuxent Review, will likely draw a big crowd, though it will have to compete for audience with Emily Giffin, whose books have become popular, including her latest book, Where We Belong. And as always, there will be a literary walking tour, local businesses displaying their products and services, and panels on women’s fiction, young adult romance, steampunk, and how to cross genres.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) will showcase the winners of the annual Individual Artist Awards for playwrights, and the Hope Family Choir will offer the soothing sounds of contemporary gospel music. At 2 p.m. there will be a musical library tour, and Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, the creators of Ivy and Bean, will unveil the latest book in the series, Ivy and Bean Make the Rules. Maryland native Michael Tucker, former L.A. Law attorney Stuart Markowitz, returns to talk about his debut novel, After Annie. And if you miss Laura Lippman at the Virginia Fall for the Book Festival, you can catch her in Baltimore. Check out the full schedule.

This weekend is shaping up to be the best in books and reading all year.

The Marriage Price by Alma Katsu

The Marriage Price by Alma Katsu is another short story from The Taker series and it reunites readers with Jonathan’s hometown just before he marries child-like Evangeline.  Told from Evangeline’s point of view, readers will get a taste of her less than innocent side as she talks of the finery and the house that will be hers once she is married to Jonathan.  There’s is clearly not a love match in more ways than one as Jonathan’s family chose her for him, and she clearly has ulterior motives of her own.

She’s a naive girl who is chosen by his family to become his wife as Jonathan’s father declines in health. While Lanore from The Taker and The Reckoning does not appear in the short story, her presence is clearly felt by Evangeline, who — while naive about the sexual relationships between men and women — is not blind to the emotional connection between Jonathan and Lanore.

Evangeline’s character becomes more nuanced through this short story. Although she is portrayed as innocent in The Taker and even child-like, she is more of a strategist in The Marriage Price. She’s looking forward to the big house and the finery she can obtain through her marriage, and while Jonathan is preternaturally gorgeous, his behavior toward her is forward and aggressive by her standards. Their relationship is more student-teacher, though Evangeline’s eyes are more on the prize than on the “love” they can share together.

“Now, it was all she could think about, those shameful things Jonathan had coerced her into doing. That was why she was certain a woman would come forward on her wedding day: it would be a punishment for what she did with Jonathan before they were legally wed.” (Kindle short story)

Katsu creates a dynamic subordinate character that can stand on her own and gets a taste of what her married life will become.  Evangeline may have thought she would gain a great deal through her marriage, but she may have fooled herself into believing that what happened between them in the marriage bed would stay there.  The short story raises questions about arranged marriages, marrying for money and position, and the dark secrets that spouses can hide about not only their pasts, but also their passions.

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is a 30-year DC veteran who lives in two worlds: on one hand, she’s a novelist and author of The Taker (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books). On the other hand, she was a senior intelligence analyst for CIA and NSA, and former expert in multilateral affairs.  Check out this Interview With Alma.

This completes my first series for the Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2012.

Alma Katsu’s Short Story Free on Kindle…

Alma Katsu is at it again with more of her Taker series to tide us over until the final book in the trilogy hits stores next year.  She’s released another short story, The Marriage Price, for Kindle, and it is being offered free on Aug. 7-8.

Previously, she’s released The Devil’s Scribe in which Edgar Allan Poe meets Lanore McIlvrae.  If you’ve missed my reviews of this series, you can start with The Taker, and then move onto my review of The Reckoning and The Devil’s Scribe.

Today is the last day that you can download The Marriage Price by Alma Katsu for free.  If you’re interested in my thoughts on the short story, check out my mini review at D.C. Literature Examiner.

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

There are some books that you read quickly through and there are those books are almost too seductive and you want to slow down and savor every moment with the characters, and The Reckoning by Alma Katsu — the second book in The Taker series (check out my review of The Taker) — is the latter.  Once plunged into this world of immortal, devilish, and sometimes wayward beings, readers will not want to leave and by the end of the book, they will be clamoring for more.

The novel picks up just where Lanny and Luke leave off in the previous novel, and just as he begins to settle into their new life together — helping her to purge her past — the unthinkable happens.  The terror Lanny feels is palpable and forces her to take action in a way that she never thought she would, leaving Luke devastated.  What makes this all work so well is the tables are turned not just on Lanny forcing her to react, but the tables turn on other characters as well, including the powerful and frightening Adair.

“Inside, he detected a scent that he associated with Lanore, her musk making a part of his brain fire excitedly, re-creating the feeling of being in her presence.  She felt so real, so present, that he expected her to walk around a corner or to hear her voice carry down the staircase, and when neither happened, he felt his loneliness more profoundly than before.”  (Page 236)

The Reckoning is not only about the revenge that Adair will take upon Lanore and the events that lead her back into his path, but also it is about the judgment we all must make of ourselves, our past deeds, and our future path.  Readers will uncover more of Adair’s secrets, learn about the great Lord Byron, and come to find out that Lanore is not as immune to the charms of the dark side as she’d like to think she is.  There is a great blurring of the line between good and bad, with each character playing along the edges in their actions and thoughts.  Lanore’s character grows stronger here, burning with fear, yet conviction, while Adair’s softer side is revealed without taking over.  Katsu does well to blur these lines and show us the reality of this surreal world — that not everything is as black and white as it seems  (dare I use the pun that there are more than 50 shades of gray?).

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu is an addictive world that readers will plunge into without looking and emerge from emotionally spent and eager for the next whirlwind with The Descent.  Katsu is a phenomenal writer who is adept at building worlds and atmospheres that will hold readers in their grip and never let go, and many of these worlds straddle reality and fantasy like no other.  History, even its alternate versions, come to life in her hands as her characters run through the pages, fearing the worst and never expecting redemption.

She’s made me into a believer, enticing me back into the world of fantasy, horror, and, dare I say, the Gothic, which I had given up as trite and overwrought long ago.  I’ve been seduced.  The Reckoning by Alma Katsu is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I don’t say that about many sequels.

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is a 30-year DC veteran who lives in two worlds: on one hand, she’s a novelist and author of The Taker (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books). On the other hand, she was a senior intelligence analyst for CIA and NSA, and former expert in multilateral affairs.  Check out this Interview With Alma.

 

 

 

 

 

This completes my first series for the Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2012.

Mailbox Monday #180

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Burton Book Review.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1. Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes, which I received for review.

When Amanda Blick, a young mother and kindhearted San Francisco heiress, finds her gorgeous French chef husband wrapped around his sous-chef, she knows she must flee her life in order to rebuild it. The opportunity falls into her lap when her (very lovable) mother suggests Amanda and her young son, Max, spend the summer with her at the St. Regis Resort in Laguna Beach. With the waves right outside her windows and nothing more to worry about than finding the next relaxing thing to do, Amanda should be having the time of her life—and escaping the drama. But instead, she finds herself faced with a kind, older divorcee who showers her with attention… and she discovers that the road to healing is never simple. This is the sometimes funny, sometimes bitter, but always moving story about the mistakes and discoveries a woman makes when her perfect world is turned upside down.

2. The Reckoning by Alma Katsu, which arrived for review from her publicist. So Excited.

Lanore McIlvrae is the kind of woman who will do anything for love. Including imprisoning the man who loves her behind a wall of brick and stone.

She had no choice but to entomb Adair, her nemesis, to save Jonathan, the boy she grew up with in a remote Maine town in the early 1800s and the man she thought she would be with forever. But Adair had other plans for her. He used his mysterious, otherworldly powers to give her eternal life, but Lanore learned too late that there was a price for this gift: to spend eternity with him. And though he is handsome and charming, behind Adair’s seductive façade is the stuff of nightmares. He is a monster in the flesh, and he wants Lanore to love him for all of time.

Now, two hundred years after imprisoning Adair, Lanore is trying to atone for her sins. She has given away the treasures she’s collected over her many lifetimes in order to purge her past and clear the way for a future with her new lover, Luke Findley. But, while viewing these items at an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Lanore suddenly is aware that the thing she’s been dreading for two hundred years has caught up to her: Adair has escaped from his prison. He’s free— and he will come looking for her. And she has no idea how she will save herself.

3. Blood Line by James Rollins, which came unexpectedly from William Morrow and will be finding a new home.

In a thrilling masterwork that will make you rethink your perceptions of life and death, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins takes you to the edge of medicine, genetics, and technology, revealing the next evolutionary leap forward: immortality.

Galilee, 1025. Infiltrating an ancient citadel, a Templar knight uncovers a holy treasure long hidden within the fortress’s labyrinth: the Bachal Isu — the staff of Jesus Christ — a priceless icon that holds a mysterious and terrifying power that promises to change humankind forever.

A millennium later, Somali pirates hijack a yacht off the coast of the Horn of Africa, kidnapping a young pregnant American woman. Commander Gray Pierce is enlisted for a covert rescue mission into the African jungle. The woman is no rich tourist: she’s Amanda Gant-Bennett, daughter of the U.S. president.

Suspicious that the kidnapping masks a far more nefarious plot, Gray must confront a shadowy cabal which has been manipulating events throughout history…and now challenges the current presidency.

What did you receive?

The Devil’s Scribe by Alma Katsu

The Devil’s Scribe by Alma Katsu is an e-short story released by Simon & Schuster this month, and it’s the first thing I’ve read on my Kindle!  Can you believe it?!  What prompted me to finally read on the Kindle?!  You’ll never guess, well maybe you will by the end of this unconventional review.

“He fell on the bottle before he took a seat, pouring two fingers of whiskey into his wineglass, streaked with the last of a red he’d consumed.  Now that he’d gotten his invitation, his tentative edge fell away, replaced by relief.”  (from the e-story)

Lanore McIlvrae from The Taker (my review) meets with the one and only Edgar Allan Poe by chance in an expensive Baltimore hotel in 1846 after having been gone from America for the last 20 years.  Poe describes himself as an orphan and a widower able to support himself as the “devil’s scribe,” but Lanny seems passingly interested in his life story and the fact that he’s a writer.  However, in spite of her preoccupation with why she came back to America, she walks with this stranger through the streets of Baltimore, careful not to reveal too much of herself to him.

The story raises the idea of telling strangers secrets as a way to unburden the soul without having to deal with the same consequences one would have to deal with should they tell someone they know intimately or should they tell a family member.  It is reminiscent of the relationship between dying soldiers and/or patients and the priest that comes to hear their sins, though in this situation, Poe cannot offer Lanny absolution.

Even in this short story, Katsu is adept at creating tension and suspense as Lanny and her new companion make their way to Boston.  The story is predictable — though because I’ve already read The Taker — but well written.  Readers who know anything about Edgar Allan Poe should realize where the story is headed, but I’ll not give it away.  I really enjoyed learning more about Lanny and her fears, and it will likely play into Katsu’s next book, The Reckoning.

***Reading on the Kindle***

It wasn’t too bad with a short story.  I actually was surprised how I remained focused, but I’m not sure that I can remain focused for a full length novel.  I may try doing that soon, but for now, I’m still a fan of “real” books.