Friday, June 27, 2014

Divine Sanctuary by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Published by Imajin Books
Cover design by Ryan Doan

I loved the first two books in the Divine trilogy, I am thrilled to be reading this, the third and final book. It is also with sorrow at leaving behind the characters that Cheryl Kaye Tardif has given us. This book can be read as a standalone but reading the first two will enhance the experience.

The Prologue takes us into the past of Jasmine or Jasi as she prefers, the main character, as a recurring dream, vision or could it be a ghost, always featuring the same girl but this girl ages with time. First seen in Jasi's closet as an abused child, now she appears anywhere, anytime.

Jasi is a member of the PSI branch of the CFBI. This special branch is comprised almost entirely of agents who have psychic abilities of various types. In Jasi's case, she is a Pyro-Psychic, able to feel what a pyromaniac feels as he kills by fire, her skills brought to the fore when she smells smoke. Thus, she has to approach a suspect fire after breathing pure oxygen to keep from contaminating what she is smelling. Her team works as a tightly-knit group, each with their own abilities...except Brandon who is an arson expert and brings his own set of skills to the table.

A heart-wrenching call from a friend sends the team out in search of a missing woman, a well-known reporter who has been out of touch for five days. She had been investigating a story about missing women, and had gone incognito into the 'Sanctuary.' The premise of the Sanctuary is to rescue the homeless and downtrodden, but does it? It seems very much like a cult. The leader appears to sincerely believe what he is doing is helping people. But does he? Is he really the sincere person he seems to be?

Jasi's group has free reign to search the grounds, in fact she and Brandon are even given the use of a cottage in the compound. Granted, many of the women act afraid to talk to them or else flatly refuse to, but the team has no trouble talking to most of them and they can't really find anything. The story revolves around trying to find a foothold to learn about so many missing women who may or may not have been at Sanctuary.

But secrets may be buried deeper than anyone imagines, even the members of Sanctuary. A horrific murder has taken place within the compound, supposedly the result of accident, but Jasi has seen something different, another in the group, Natassia who is a Victim Empath and 'sees' what the victim's last sight was agrees with Jasi. The body in the walk-in furnace, was it really an accident? The shattered bones discovered, are they really from bears hunting other animals?

I love the author's way with expression, description, and energy in her books and this is no exception. These people come alive. Through the PSI group's interaction with their special gifts the search moves outside, their psi-impressions have shown horrible and terrifying deeds very quickly a mind-blowing chase is on. The pace picks up to excruciating time-crunching as the horror of what is really happening begins to be realized.

With all the horror and life-threatening sport going on, with all the sorrow around, there is some good to come out of it all, almost missed but fortunately there is an overwhelmingly stubborn ghost in connection with the also stubborn Jasi, and the end of the trilogy is surprising and satisfying. I cried.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mysteries Have No Boundaries by Nancy Gettelman

Published by Nightengale Press

Nancy Gettelman's books are written with a distinct style. I always feel that I am in the midst of each of the books I've read, even though they are taking place in different places around the world and the mystery part of each book is very different. In this book, her characters are an enthusiastic group of friends new and old.

Sara and Robb Schneider are from Milwaukee, WI and headed to the International Convention of Brew Pub Owners being held in Victoria, BC. Robb, as owner/operator of a Craft Brewery, has attended some of these conventions before and is looking forward to seeing old friends. After leaving the cold of Wisconsin behind Sara is enchanted with Victoria at first sight. The city is already budding out with flowers everywhere. They've booked into the Empress Hotel, an old and very impressive structure, fit for royalty.

Meeting Robb's friends, Sara feels right at home, and is thrilled to learn that her new friends are planning on taking her sight-seeing. There is one sad fact overshadowing this adventure; their house guest's husband goes missing while sent to the north on a government project working with the Inuits. But she is determined to join the girls in showing Sara around. This plot-line runs as a thread throughout the first portion of the story while Sara continues to be enthralled with the beauty she sees all around. All but one of the wives are warm and friendly, but one seems tense and doesn't always accompany them. Her husband is about to go to the Alberta tar sands for a couple of weeks.

Nancy Gettleman's gift is to take us wherever her character goes, and see what she sees. The reader might as well be sitting right in the car with them, wandering through Butchart Gardens, or dining in the Bengal Room of the Empress. Though I've lived most of my life in Vancouver and often visited Victoria, I learned several new things, which I always enjoy in a book. This book is character driven, and even the location seems to be one of the characters. But wait. This is a murder mystery, not necessarily the victim you might expect, not necessarily the location you might expect and definitely not the method. What is the motive? What is the method? That is the mystery.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

Published by Doubleday Canada

This book touched a chord with me. Although it takes place in World War I, I felt memories return to me at the same age as Alfie; mine from World War II. John Boyne is spot on with this story and has a fantastic ability to recreate this time period and the horrors that went with it, without losing sight of his youthful audience.  This book is suggested for the 9 to 12 year range, but I believe it would be interesting to a wider range.

Alfie is an only child and has just had his fifth birthday as the story begins. This is his story, but also the story of all London where suddenly all the Dads are off to war, Mothers off to work and/or taking in work and children left alone. Alfie's best friend Kalena Janacek and her father have been sent away to the Isle of Wight to an internment camp, his Dad Georgie is at war and his Dad's best friend Joe as a conscientious objector, a conchie as they call him, is dragged off to jail and badly beaten. All life as he knew it is changed, and changed him with it.

Alfie decides he should do his part, too, so he takes Mr. Janacek's shoeshine kit and starts working at the train station, skipping school three days a week. This is a tale of survival, constant fear and worry, death, innovation and love of family. When letters no longer come from Georgie, Alfie's father, he believes the worst. His mother tries to ease his fears by telling him he can't write because he is on a secret mission but Alfie doesn't believe her.

Chance is a strange thing. While Alfie, now nine, is shining the shoes of a well-dressed man at the station, a wind happens to gust through the station and catch all the papers the man is holding. Alfie rushes to collect them all and chances to see his father listed as a patient at a hospital in England. From this point on the story veers as Alfie plots to see his father. This story is very well-written, compelling and compassionate, as much as a coming of age story. Alfie's complicated plans are admirable if ill-conceived. In a four year period, many things can change, and especially with children, who always seem to grow up too soon, but during war often become grown up through necessity as Alfie did. With love, though, anything is possible.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Griffin and the Dinosaur by Marc Aronson with Adrienne Mayor

Published by National Geographic Kids
Illustrated by Chris Muller

An exciting adventure in a way, this story begins with Adrienne Mayor born in 1946, as a young schoolgirl who is fascinated by mythology and in particular with the story of the Griffin. How does a shy, quiet kid from Souix Falls, South Dakota, come to develop a new field of research - geomythology? This book by Marc Aronson follows her path as student from country to country as she searches through ancient texts about mythical creatures. This is no easy task as she learns ancient languages in order to read these texts.

How Adrienne is able to discover what others miss is the way she thinks. She is sure that these ancient people had to have seen something real, even if only bones. She knows she is onto something meaningful and very early in history. At first she knows very little about these early dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, but she is determined and learns. Her goal is set on the Griffin. There must have been bones of a real animal to influence the people of the time. Therefore, she must go back through the pages of time to find one thing. Where did the first story come from, and why? The Griffin was said to protect gold. Where was gold found along with prehistoric bones? This is how she progressed until finally finding the link from paleontology to her "Griffin."

A fascinating story for young and old, a detective story of how to seek and find from the most ancient of times.

Monday, June 9, 2014

NGK - Everything Mythology by Blake Hoena and NG Explorer Adrienne Mayor

Illustrated by Gonzalo Ordonez and Margaret Salter
Published by National Geographic Kids

Begin Your Quest for Facts, Photos, and Fun Fit for Gods and Goddesses

What could be more exciting than reading and learning about all those amazing Mythological beings, especially illustrated in brilliant colour! This is an amazing book that fits many categories. Even this grandmother learned from it! Readers will learn mythological origins, why these origins came to be, how they evolved and changed over the years and what the main purpose of each was. What is more, we will all learn the equivalent myths from around the world, and how some myths became blended. But that is not all. There are demi-gods (half-human), deities, demons, heroes and helpful demons. Also the book will connect the mythological beings with their original geographical locations. Myths were a way of learning about the world, why nature does certain things, and how they protect us.

But mythology is ever growing. It does not stay still. As the human race progresses, so does the evolution of myths, changing with the times. I found this book to not just be informative, but to be very interesting, containing various projects for children and teens to do  and also the family trees of the earliest mythological beings and how they crossed to other races to keep the stories going. A cross-section of very old worlds and their own mythological beasts are sufficient to pique the interest of children 8 and up. Some wording may be a little difficult for younger readers due to some of the words used to describe their places in historical mythology from the Romans, Greeks, Hindi, South American, African, Wales, Australia, Asia, North American and more. Otherwise I would recommend it at any age. Author Blake Hoena and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Adrienne Mayor have done an excellent and enjoyable presentation with this book.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Mysterious Something in the Light - The Life of Raymond Chandler by Tom Williams

Published by The Chicago Review Press

Raymond Chandler - July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959
Though the subject of Raymond Chandler was an exciting one to my mind, I often found this book to be a little repetitive. However, the complexity of this man was quite fascinating and I did learn a lot from this biographical history. Unfortunately, many of his formative early years seem to be based more on supposition than researched facts, but perhaps there were few facts available to research. On the other hand, he was a prolific letter-writer even while young and much of the biography is based on quoted snippets from those letters. Born the son of an alcoholic, it is not surprising that though he abhorred alcoholism, he would fall into the same trap, regardless of how he felt about it.

Chandler appears to have been a lonely boy who never really completely grew up. The need to be important and powerful, the need to have close friends and a wife who loves him wholeheartedly plays as a theme throughout the book. I felt for him, a tribute to Tom Williams, who obviously 'got' him. Raymond Chandler, a world-famous author whose work lives on decades after his death, is definitely an enigma, but I feel at his core he is a little boy lost, often has no idea of his impact and yet irrationally thinks he does.

The author is not just giving nod to a list of Chandler's books, but looks at them, takes them apart and puts them back together again, using his own comments. In fact, that is exactly how Chandler himself looked and learned how to write a book. He lived in Chicago and in Los Angeles in what might be called their heyday, but was at the time gangster-ruled. Chicago had nothing on Los Angeles for corruption. Here we are not talking about Hollywood but the fast rise to wealth from oil, the collapse of morals from the Depression and the resulting city corruption. He was a product of his time, yet in his mind he lived in an earlier time.

Here, then, is the root of Ray Chandler's books and his association, in writing, of his character Philip Marlowe, and later to his screenplays. I think it is honest to say his personal life revolved around three main themes: His deep love for his older wife to whom he was married until her death; his commitment to literary writing rather than grinding out corruption and murder, but with a similar theme; his alcoholism. A brilliant man, but complicated and driven.