Thursday, November 20, 2014

Personal note to authors waiting for their reviews

Personal note to all authors waiting on me for reviews of their books. I was ill through most of August to mid-November. I am gradually getting back into the groove and will do the reviews on the books already sent to me as soon as I can between my proof-reading job and the opportunities I can make in between everything else (mostly medical appointments). I apologize for the delays.   Cheers, Betty

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Easy Bake Coven by Liz Shulte

Review from ebook

Selene is a young woman who never seems to be wholly involved in life, but a witch with both human and paranormal issues. A girl who appears to have everything including a wonderful man in her life, but cannot commit. A witch with a coven, a teacher of yoga, alone in life except for a grandmother. This is our protagonist, an amateur witch who discovers she was the real thing all along. But wait! What and who is this stranger who is shadowing her but meaning no harm, only trying to protect her? When her grandmother is the victim of assault in her own home, thrown down the stairs, how does her grandmother know this stranger? Is her grandmother human, half-elf or elf? Is she a witch? Selene has no idea of what her life really is and denies what she is told.

I found this an interesting story, I could almost feel I was in the story at times. The tale winds around in many directions and kept my interest throughout. Her friends in her coven notice something different about her yet can't seem to pinpoint it. Could she really be as the strange Cheney says she is? This book is passionate, surreal, and delightful, fraught with danger and magic. Liz Shulte has a number of books in the vein of this and two other series. Light paranormal early in the book, it becomes more adult mid-read graduating into a clash to usurp a throne. All this fits well into the book but the final two chapters leave me stunned and confused. Perhaps the answer lies in another book? Guess I'll have to wait and see because this easy bake coven has definitely grown up in this book. Young adult+ rating.

Friday, August 8, 2014

I'm Movin' On - the Life and Legacy of Hank Snow by Vernon Oickle

Published by Nimbus

Hank Snow, a man who certainly has 'been everywhere'...a Canadian and international legend in his time and on through his legacy of country music. This biography by Vernon Oikle is a bit of an eye opener. We watched his burgeoning career, having been too young to see his beginnings. Born in 1914, his early life brutal and difficult, a life that began in the years of WW1, the Spanish 'flu, starvation and desperation in the small town of Brooklyn in Nova Scotia, Canada. This book follows his life from birth past death on to his post-mortem accolades. He may have been 'movin' on' but what he accomplished in his lifetime will fortunately remain with us. There are some wonderful old photos in the book, too.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves country music, ambition, accomplishment, and determination to succeed. Learn how one man accomplished so many dreams. I thought I knew Hank Snow's music, but soon discovered I didn't know much of anything. I knew his voice, but never understood his instrumental skills. Nor did I realize just how many hit songs he wrote that became huge hits for other vocalists of the '40s to '60s in particular, some who were in a completely different genre.

His legacy is not just his music, his fame, nor his name. His legacy includes the societies he set up and backed up for abused children. This, perhaps, was his biggest focus outside of music. As an abused child himself, he wanted to make a difference in the treatment of children. If he could have, he would have ended child abuse. That is how important this was to his life.

Hank Snow began his career as Jack Snow, regardless of the fact that his name was actually Clarence. This is just one of many strange facts scattered throughout this book. I wonder how many people living today remember that he began his career as a trick rider and yodeler. I wonder how many know that he wrote and recorded that still remain as best sellers. Today, in the digital world, this is a man who would have been in the forefront of writing songs for today’s country stars. He has so many awards, accolades, a museum and yearly festival in New Brunswick, where he was born, and inducted into so many Halls of Fame. A man who came from nothing but never gave up his dream. A man whose music goes on today, even 100 years after his birth.

The Hollywood Detective by Martha Steinway

Published by Venatrix

Quirky and entertaining take on the hard-boiled detectives of the '40s

Kind of a cheeky, fun version of the old '40s-type detective stories. Certainly not noir, but it has its moments. This detective with the messy office finds that the secretary he thinks he has hired is much better at being an associate investigator. More than a match for our 'hero'. A missing girl is the focus, but what happens to her is not only a mystery but with a wild rampage going on in the city it becomes very difficult to get close enough to solve the case. The book has unique moments and I quite enjoyed it as such. A fast, lighter read but the ending is definitely scary and surprising. I'm quite interested to find out what these two get up to in the next installment.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Published by Simon & Schuster Canada

A story of exploitation, broken trust, secrets and changes to come
A very unusual book, told from two main sources. Yes, there is a museum and it is fascinating, but there are dark secrets hidden here. The museum is owned by a refugee who lives alone on Coney Island with his young daughter, who tells one part of the story, and a housekeeper. Both are called monsters, though they are the most caring in the story. The girl is very young at the beginning of her story, and one hundred percent under the control of her father, though she is not aware of it. Nor is she aware of what his plan for her future is.

The second storyteller is an Orthodox Jew, a refugee from the Ukraine who lives with his father and both work in the textile mills in Boston. A young boy on the verge of rebellion at the beginning. He renounces his faith when he believes his father tried to commit suicide.

It is a time in New York when men were in charge and women were treated as possessions, a time when class distinction was not only strongly defined but often corrupt and hidden crime was rampant, a time when 'hired' help was more often than not mistreated. Also a time of workhouses where children and women were forced to work for a pittance and often accidents occurred. Such is the case when a fire breaks out while the workers are locked within. You thought this happened only in other countries? Murders and assaults occur while eyes remain closed. This is New York in the 1800s and early 1900s. Manhattan was not much more than a swamp at certain times of the year. Coney Island was just becoming the famous park and beach it would one day be. For the boy who renounced his faith he has found beauty in nature. For the girl living at the museum, she has found horror. Will the two ever be able to find each other in time?

Through all the brutality of the times, this story is beautiful in many ways. It flows between two sides, much like the Hudson River, featured so often in the story and integral to it in many ways. It is a story of betrayal, but also a love story of two storytellers. There is connection between many of the characters, and the spark of life, love and humanity exists and blooms against all odds. Alice Hoffman has not only captured the essence of early New York, she has integrated two historical events seamlessly, and recreated the crises so vividly you can almost feel the heat. Though the characters are fictional, the events are real. This is a wonderful story of compassion within a nightmare world. This story I will carry with me for a long time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Shadow Lantern by Teresa Flavin

Published by Candlewick Press (July 2014) Templar

I was excited to receive this book for review, but what I didn't realize at the time was that it is not really a stand-alone but rather the final installment in a series. That said, I did enjoy the book and fairly quickly adjusted myself to what may have gone before. In fact, I hope to purchase the two previous books. This series by Teresa Flavin, judging from this book, is a fascinating journey of magic and time travel that I'm sure juvenile readers will enjoy as I did.

There is some confusion in trying to read this single book without knowing exactly what went on before, although there are many references in this book to the previous ones, enough possibly to keep the momentum flowing from one book to another. Enough to clue the reader in to what went before, and how the situation came to be in this book. Not to say too much about what happened previously, there is plenty of excitement and especially so when it comes to Hallowe'en night and the school community party.

The main characters in the present are teens Sunni, Blaise, Maddy and Dean. Among the adults are the parents and Mr. Bell, who is mainly in charge of the party, Angus, a former art forger who is Mr. Bell's cousin, and the mysterious Munroe, who claims to capture spirits on film and is giving a performance of a magical projecting lantern with hand-painted glass slides, a strange shadow lantern. From the past, we have Fausto Corvo in 1582, a purported magician and artist who combines the two, Lady Ishbel once alive and now a spirit in the present and Soranzo who would like to get his hands on Corvo's paintings.

Enigma Night is being planned for Hallowe'en night at Blackhope Tower, the place where so much has (and will) happen. Sunni and Blaise have disappeared from that tower in the past and it has a great deal to do with a Corvo painting that is housed there. Why was there a labyrinth in the tower room, why did skeletons pop up on it from thin air, why and how did it disappear? Munro is setting up a display and talks about his wonderful find, the antique and magical Oculus, apparently originally commissioned by Corvo. Is it possible that Corvo's secrets are trapped inside? The lamp is very unusual, but what is more unusual is what it does, something Sunni and Blaise will discover to their shock and amazement. What has happened to Mr. Bell, the art teacher who is mainly in charge of the party? He has disappeared. What causes the tower to begin to self-destruct? This book is full of fun, magic, adventure, and secret codes, perfect entertainment for the juvenile set. I enjoyed it to the point that I will probably obtain the other two books in the series, The Blackhope Enigma and The Crimson Shard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Clubbed (a Booktown Mystery) by Lorna Barrett

 Published by Berkley Prime Crime

Death by books - a case full of murder.
A unique voice among cozy authors, capable of making us want more with every book, Lorna Barrett has returned to Booktown with this latest outing, Book 8 of the series. Lorna has given us many unusual ways for a killer to kill, and this book is no exception.

Angelica has taken over the Chamber of Commerce in a vote against former Chamber president Bob Kelly. But where is he? For reasons unknown, he has disappeared...or has he? The receptionist for the Chamber is not a person anyone would really attempt to make a friend. She is downright nasty...could that be the reason for her literal downfall? A tremendous crash brings Angelica and sister Tricia running and once again Tricia has found a body. No wonder she is known as the 'town jinx' and often assumed to be the suspect! But Tricia has many more things to confuse her and take up her time. With an ex-husband and ex-boyfriend trying to get back in favor with her, she also is, naturally, sleuthing to clear her name and solve the murder along with sister Angelica. Why was Betsy Dittmeyer so nasty? What secret has she harbored that sister Joelle needs to know? What is she hiding and who didn't want anyone to find out?

Meanwhile, it appears there is a new boon coming...a virtual explosion of future residents in the picture, along with Angelica's determination to expand the coverage of the Chamber of Commerce there should be a re-awakening of the small town and Tricia is privy to some of the newcomers already on the way, a secret that many people seem to know.

With this latest book, aside from the secrets, mysteries, murder and possible attempted murder, the author has left some tantalizing bits of what may be to come in a future book and indeed I, for one, am hoping that Booktown will survive it's latest crisis. Recipes are included in the book.
-Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)