Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publication date: June 18, 2013 by William Morrow Books
Source: book provided by publisher for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.


My Take:
I think the theme for reviews of this book will be "When it arrived, I dropped everything else and read it straight through!" I know that's what I did.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a rather short, amazingly beautiful, magical, haunting, enchanting, thought provoking book. As with every Neil Gaiman book I've read, the people and ideas and events of the book stay in my head and I can't stop thinking about them.

This book made me nostalgic and contemplative. I loved the mythology of this world, which brought back many memories of other Gaiman books I've read - particularly American Gods and The Absolute Sandman #1-#5.

Reading it made me stop and think about childhood and memories and how they change over time. I thought about growing older and what that means or maybe I don't know what growing older means. I wonder if we as adults, feel any different than we did as children. Are we really any more secure or any more certain of ourselves? Or do we just pretend and get on with life? Did things happen the way we remember them or did we re-write our past? Although, while reading the book, I felt that being back at the Hempstock's home and near the ocean was what brought back the narrators's memories of his childhood - the ones that fade when he leaves. In this place there is magic and it allows him to re-examine his memories and work through them - again.

I do know that this story was as frightening and haunting as any other I have read but at the same time, it was comforting (the Hempstocks) and magical. As always when reading a work by Neil Gaiman, I was completely drawn into the story and it was real and I believed it completely.

I made the mistake of allowing my husband to read it immediately after I finished it, and now I have to wait for him to finish reading it before I can re-read it. One of the (many) things I love about reading a book by Neil Gaiman, is that every time I read it I get something new out of it. I can't possibly do the book justice in a review, and honestly, everyone should read it without any preconceived ideas. Just read it, be scared, be enchanted, be sad and nostalgic, believe.





Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And When She Was Good Blog Tour and Review





And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
Publication date: June 4, 2013 (Paperback) by William Morrow
Source: Book provided by publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:
When Hector Lewis told his daughter that she had a nothing face, it was just another bit of tossed-off cruelty from a man who specialized in harsh words and harsher deeds. But twenty years later, Heloise considers it a blessing to be a person who knows how to avoid attention. In the comfortable suburb where she lives, she's just a mom, the youngish widow with a forgettable job who somehow never misses a soccer game or a school play. In the state capitol, she's the redheaded lobbyist with a good cause and a mediocre track record.

But in discreet hotel rooms throughout the area, she's the woman of your dreams—if you can afford her hourly fee.

For more than a decade, Heloise has believed she is safe. She has created a rigidly compartmentalized life, maintaining no real friendships, trusting few confidantes. Only now her secret life, a life she was forced to build after the legitimate world turned its back on her, is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions. Her longtime protector is hinting at new, mysterious dangers. Her employees can't be trusted. One county over, another so-called suburban madam has been found dead in her car, a suicide. Or is it?

Nothing is as it seems as Heloise faces a midlife crisis with much higher stakes than most will ever know.

And then she learns that her son's father might be released from prison, which is problematic because he doesn't know he has a son. The killer and former pimp also doesn't realize that he's serving a life sentence because Heloise betrayed him. But he's clearly beginning to suspect that Heloise has been holding something back all these years.

With no formal education, no real family, and no friends, Heloise has to remake her life—again. Disappearing will be the easy part. She's done it before and she can do it again. A new name and a new place aren't hard to come by if you know the right people. The trick will be living long enough to start a new life.



My Take:

Heloise, who begins her life as Helen, has had a difficult life, no one can deny that. She had an abusive father, and a mother who was abused and allowed her daughter to be abused both verbally and physically. Helen, who was a bright student, isn't very wise about the world or people, as becomes painfully apparent early on in the novel.

I found myself feeling distinctly uneasy while reading And When She Was Good, but I don't think it was the prostitution that was the real problem. I think it was that I could sense all the things that could, and eventually would, go wrong for Helen/Heloise.  Through so much of the book, while she thinks she understands people, she is so very wrong. Helen isn't stupid, but she is naive in a certain sense and isn't able to see or envision a world outside of what she has already known. This is a sad situation and made me feel for her and want her to find a way out.

Heloise does make changes and begins a new life of sorts. Unfortunately, despite her precautions, she is still very vulnerable to betrayal. The novel switches between current time and Helen's past until the story lines meet up and then continue the narrative in the present. This worked quite well in slowly building the tension and building the back story. I was quickly pulled into the story and despite wanting to shake some sense into Helen/Heloise at various points, I liked her as a character. Fortunately she does eventually begin to see people for who or what they really are and then takes action accordingly. For someone who lies all the time and deals with such shady characters,Heloise can be a bit dense at times. But she tries and she tries to improve herself and most of all she tries to be a good mom. That right there is what I liked the most about her and the book. Above all, she wants to give her son a good, safe, stable life.

The mystery and intrigue of the book are quite compelling and will definitely hold the reader's attention. I had to stay up until the wee hours to finish the book because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep until I had. I can highly recommend And When She Was Good.



About Laura Lippman

laura lippmanLaura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Knowand Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.
To learn more about Laura’s work, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.

Laura’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, June 4th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, June 5th: Book Reviews by Elizabeth White
Monday, June 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, June 11th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, June 12th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, June 13th: Literary Feline
Monday, June 17th: What She Read – joint review
Wednesday, June 19th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, June 20th: she treads softly

Tuesday, June 25th: Drey’s Library





Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Spartacus: Rebellion Blog Tour and Review

Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane
Publication date: May 14, 2013 by St. Martin's Press
Source: Book provided by publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review
Synopsis:
Spartacus has already done the impossible—not only has he escaped from slavery, he and his seconds have created a mighty slave army that has challenged Rome and defeated the armies of three praetors, two consuls, and one proconsul. On the plain of the River Po, in modern Northern Italy, Spartacus has defeated Gaius Cassius Longinus, proconsul and general of an army of two legions. Now the road home lies before them—to Thrace for Spartacus, and to Gaul for his seconds-in-command, Castus and Gannicus.
But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. One of Spartacus’s most powerful generals has defected, taking his men with him. Back in Rome, the immensely rich Marcus Licinius Crassus is gathering an unheard-of Army. The Senate has given Crassus an army made up of ten legions and the authority to do whatever it takes to end the slave rebellion once and for all.

Meanwhile, Spartacus wants to lead his men over the Alps and home, but his two seconds have a different plan. They want to march on Rome itself and bring the Republic to its knees. Rebellion has become war. War to the death.


My Take:
I agreed to participate in the blog tour for Spartacus: Rebellion because we spend quite a bit of time on ancient history  - particularly Greek and Roman history - in our homeschool studies and I have developed a special fondness for reading fiction about ancient Rome. Many of the books I read are a bit more academic and a bit slower paced. Spartacus: Rebellion is definitely not slow paced. I think most people at all familiar
with Roman history are aware of Spartacus and are pretty fascinated with him. I mean, a slave that managed to successfully begin and maintain a large-scale slave rebellion against Rome? You can't get much wilder than that.

I have not read the first book, Spartacus: The Gladiator - it wasn't necessary, I knew what happened historically and I didn't feel lost while reading. However, after reading the second book, I will be going back to read the first because I really enjoyed the story that Ben Kane has created around what little is actually known about Spartacus. This is where the book really shines, for me. He manages to bring these people - some of whom are basically just names in history - into this incredibly vivid portrayal of what their lives and the events could have been like. Because so little is actually known, there is ample room for imagination and Kane really delivers. But even the things that he imagines fit into the historical records and make sense. I was actually pretty impressed with the attention to historical detail. I am not really that into military fiction, but in this case I made an exception and I'm glad that I did.

I enjoyed the book all the way through, but I have to say that the last quarter or so of the book was extremely difficult to put down and really, quite gut-wrenching. War is hell, we know this, and I think Roman wars are pretty awful. But, I was pretty much devastated by the descriptions of the final battles. So vivid. So brutal. I knew what was coming, so I thought I was prepared. I was wrong. Despite the sadness and brutality,  I thought the ending was really well done. Anyone interested in Roman history or military history should love Spartacus: Rebellion.




About the Author

Ben KaneBen Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.
While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fuelled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.
To find out more about Ben and his books visit www.benkane.net.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Boys
Thursday, May 16
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Friday, May 17
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Monday, May 20
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, May 21
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, May 22
Interview & Giveaway at Starting Fresh
Thursday, May 23
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Friday, May 24
Guest Post & Giveaway at CelticLady’s Reviews
Monday, May 27
Review at Bippity Boppity Book
Tuesday, May 28
Review at Okbo Lover
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, May 29
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Thursday, May 30
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Friday, May 31
Review & Guest Post at Drey’s Library
Guest Post at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Monday, June 3
Review at Book Drunkard
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Tuesday, June 4
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Wednesday, June 5
Review at A Book Geek
Thursday, June 6
Review at Freshscraped Vellum
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Friday, June 7
Review at Impressions in Ink
Review & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read
Interview at Freshscraped Vellum







Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Royal Mistress

Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
Publication date: May 7, 2013
Source: Book provided by publisher for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:
From the author of A Rose for the Crown and Daughter of York comes another engrossing historical novel of the York family in the Wars of the Roses, telling the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the final and favorite mistress of Edward IV.

Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore—but her heart belongs to another. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane Shore from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain and friend, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows his King will find her irresistible.

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as that of Jane Shore and Will Hastings, hang in the balance.

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for 500 years, and told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.


My Take:
While I am pretty sure I have encountered Jane Shore in my various historical readings, I don't think I ever gave her much thought - until I read Royal Mistress. I liked that a mistress, a commoner, was made the main character and often shows the most courage and decency. She is a fascinating woman - mistress to a king, hounded by another king, so many things occurred in her life - she really does deserve a novel about her.

The author states that "the theme of the novel is the nature of love and how many different ways a woman can love men." I can see this as a theme, certainly. Jane has a troubled relationship with her father, she has an unhappy marriage which leads to her annulment and she then becomes mistress to Edward IV. While he seems to adore her and she truly loves him, their relationship is uneven as she has no legal standing and relies entirely on his favor. She enters a relationship with Will Hastings soon after Edward's death for complicated reasons. While she likes Hastings as a friend, she enters the relationship for security as much as for love. This highlights the other theme that I see in the novel - the plight of women throughout much of history in their dependence on men for safety and support. Jane's situation is a very good example of this problem.

While Jane was considered to be lacking in morals by some, there are not many who can or would defy the King of England. She was fortunate that he didn't tire of her and that he truly cared for her. Jane Shore, as portrayed in Royal Mistress, is a beautiful woman with a mind of her own. There were times though, that I just wanted to shake her - mostly due to her childish infatuation with Tom Grey. At other times, I was impressed with her wit and intelligence and her ability to see the good in others.

Richard III is pretty much just a sanctimonious jerk in Royal Mistress. I didn't find him to be very sympathetic in this book even though I don't happen to believe that he was quite the monster that Shakespeare would have us believe. Every time he entered a scene, I found myself gritting my teeth and thinking "hypocrite" - much like some of the characters in the book.  He makes for a great villain, of course, and I did appreciate that the author didn't make him out to be completely evil - more like a very dangerous self-righteous jerk.

This period in history is always fascinating to read about and I thought that the author did  a wonderful job of bringing to life the details of how people lived. I appreciated the distinction between how Jane lived with Edward and how her friends lived - the filthy streets, the poverty, the sickness. I don't like it when the realities of life are glossed over in favor of a fairy tale version of events.

Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, history, particularly English history, will thoroughly enjoy Royal Mistress. Even though the history is well known, Jane's life isn't so well known and Ann Easter Smith does a wonderful job of bringing the people of the period to life and gives the reader a different perspective on events.








Monday, June 3, 2013

Seduction Blog Tour and Review

Seduction by M.J. Rose
Publication date: May 7, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Source: ARC provided by publisher for an honest review
Synopsis:
 From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

My Take:
I hadn't read The Book of Lost Fragrances before I read Seduction by M.J. Rose. I think it might have helped me to understand the main character, Jac, a bit better if I had, but I still enjoyed the novel immensely. Immediately after finishing Seduction, I added The Book of Lost Fragrances and Les Miserables to my reading list. I never knew much about Victor Hugo, but this book has inspired be to do more research and to read his works.

There are three distinct story lines that the reader must follow in Seduction. The stories follow Jac, Victor Hugo and Owain, a druid from 56 BCE. I was immediately drawn into this gothic, atmospheric story that deals with loss, tragedy, love and reincarnation.

I especially liked two aspects to the novel. One was the Jungian analysis and the focus on the collective consciousness and the second was the way fragrances are emphasized and described. I have been fascinated with Jung and his ideas for years and it is always nice to encounter them in a novel. I was also intrigued with Jac and her sensitivity to fragrance. I will now have to go back and read The Book of Lost Fragrances just to learn more about this fascinating family of hers.

This amazing novel has what seems at first like a pretty typical ghost story, but soon turns into something much more involved and sinister. There are so many questions and possible explanations for certain events, but the narrative draws the reader ever deeper into the story and nothing is quite what it seems at first.

I was completely drawn into the story and couldn't wait to find out how it would end. "There are no coincidences" as Malachi tells Jac and it would appear to be true for this book. Events and people are so interwoven and continue to have an influence on each other over the centuries. This was a  unforgettable book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to read more books about these characters and ideas. Seduction goes to the top of my recommendation list.

About the Author

M.J. RoseM.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven 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.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, March 25
Review at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, March 26
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.
Wednesday, March 27
Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, March 28
Interview at A Bookish Libraria
Friday, March 29
Review & Guest Post at vvb32Reads
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Monday, April 1
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Guest Post at The Lit Bitch
Tuesday, April 2
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 3
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Thursday, April 4
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Friday, April 5
Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, April 8
Review at Girls Just Reading
Tuesday, April 9
Review & Guest Post at Kinx’s Book Nook
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Booklover Book Reviews
Thursday, April 11
Review at Psychotic Book Reviews
Guest Post at Literary Marie
Friday, April 12
Review at West Metro Mommy
Monday, April 15
Review at Layered Pages
Tuesday, April 16
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, April 17
Review at Reflections of a Book Addict
Thursday, April 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Reflections of a Book Addict
Friday, April 19
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, April 22
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, April 23
Review at Review From Here
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, April 24
Guest Post at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, April 25
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at As I Turn the Pages
Tuesday, April 30
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, May 1
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, May 2
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, May 3
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Tuesday, May 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Wednesday, May 8
Review at Buried Under Books
Review at Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, May 9
Review at Amused by Books
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Interview at Buried Under Books
Friday, May 10
Review at Savvy Verse & Wit
Monday, May 13
Review at Historical Tapestry & The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Tuesday, May 14
Review at Words and Peace
Review at Kimba the Caffeinated Reviewer
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, May 15
Review at Stiletto Storytime
Thursday, May 16
Review at From Left to Write
Guest Post at Stiletto Storytime
Friday, May 17
Review at A Novel Review
Monday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 21
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Guest Post at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, May 22
Review at Bags, Books and Bon Jovi
Guest Post at Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Thursday, May 23
Review at Man of La Book
Guest Post at Bags, Books and Bon Jovi
Friday, May 24
Review at The Calico Critic
Monday, May 27
Review at Paperback Princess
Tuesday, May 28
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Guest Post at Blood Mother Blog
Wednesday, May 29
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Guest Post at To Read or Not to Read
Thursday, May 30
Review at Book Nerds
Guest Post at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Monday, June 3
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, June 4
Review at Tribute Books Mama
Guest Post at My Shelf Confessions
Wednesday, June 5
Review at Bippity Boppity Book
Thursday, June 6
Guest Post at Book Nerds
Friday, June 7
Review at Book Drunkard
Monday, June 10
Review at Jenny Loves to Read
Tuesday, June 11
Review & Interview at Pure Textuality
Wednesday, June 12
Review at From the TBR Pile
Thursday, June 13
Review & Guest Post at Books by the Willow Tree
Friday, June 14
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, June 17
Review at Mari Reads
Tuesday, June 18
Guest Post at Mari Reads
Wednesday, June 19
Review at Daisy’s Book Journal
Thursday, June 20
Guest Post at Daisy’s Book Journal
Friday, June 21
Review at Judith Starkston Blog
Review at Just One More Chapter
Monday, June 24
Review at The True Book Addict
Tuesday, June 25
Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, June 26
Interview at Judith Starkston Blog
Friday, June 28
Review & Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse