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100 Pages A Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews

I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way.  I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.

The Secret of the Irish Castle

The Secret of the Irish Castle - Santa Montefiore

First Book for Halloween Bingo!- Romantic Suspense


Centuries ago, a curse was placed upon the Deverills after taking a building a castle on the O'Leary land.  Since then, every male Deverill heir has been trapped in a limbo inside the castle upon their death.  For the curse to be broken, the land must come back into the hands of an O'Leary.  Now, in 1939, the Deverill Castle has fallen out of Deverill hands and has been bought up by former housemaid Bridie after she came into money in New York.  Bridie believed taking the Castle from the Deverills would be a perfect revenge, but still feels like an outsider in her hometown.  Jack O'Leary also returns to Ballinakelly from New York with a wife and kids in tow upsetting the gentle balance that Kitty has made with her family.  Meanwhile, Bridie's daughter that she believes has died, comes looking for her family believing that Lady Rowan-Hampton is her birth mother.  However, she is just the one who began many of the lies and deceptions.  With everyone in one place, old flames light once again and new ones spark.  A chance for  JP Deverill and  Alana O'Leary to end everything with true love. After generations of lies, mistakes, secrets and missteps, the Deverills and O'Learys will have to dig deep for forgiveness.

The Secret of the Irish Castle is the last book in the Deverill Chronicles trilogy.  I would highly recommend reading these in order, there is much to keep track of and a lot of history.  It was almost difficult for me to read this last installment because so much tension existed between all of the characters due to the massive web of lies and deceptions that they have formed over the years in the belief that it would keep them safe.  It was a relief when everything begun to crash down around them.  Santa Montefiore deftly moves through the many subplots happening at once in a way that kept me engaged and interested while showing the beauty of the Irish landscape, Castle and people as well as the intensity of war.  I was glad that more of the ghost's stories were brought to light along with how the curse began with Maggie O'Leary as well as their influence over their descendants.  A rollercoaster of emotions, The Secret of the Irish Castle went from triumph to tragedy, heartbreak to  happiness and fury to forgiveness which is what lies at the heart of the story.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard - Lawrence M. Schoen
Far in the future, there are no remnants of human life left. In a distant solar system, the uplifted elephant-like species of Barsk, the Fant live out their daily lives excluded from the many other uplifted species.  However, Barsk is the only planet that can grow the plants for a variety of medicinal drugs.  One drug, called koph helps those with the talent of Speaking to interact with the dead.  Jorl is a Fant who is a Speaker and a historian who has specialized in the prophesies of the Matriarch.  Jorls often Speaks to his best friend, Arlo and helps to take care of his son, Pizlo.  While Speaking, Jorl notices that he cannot connect with several Fant's that have just passed, this knowledge combined with some interesting visions that Pizlo has begun to see, causes Jorl to believe that he is part of one of the prophesies.
Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard is a unique fantasy that pulled me into a different world.  This is a story that you have to allow yourself to go with the flow and immerse yourself into the world of Barsk.  The inhabitants of Barsk and the other worlds are all mammals that have been somehow integrated with human thought process, language and emotions while still having traits of the animal they originated from.  This made for an interesting conflicts between beings as well as a mystery as to why everyone else disliked the Fant.  Since there was so much going on, I focused on Jorl and his insights as well as Pizlo.  Pizlo was the most intriguing character for me.  He is an outcast, since he was born to parents who were not fully bonded.  Fant- besides his mother and Jorl ignore Pizlo, however Pizlo seems to have the greatest sense about what is going on with Barsk and those who are after its resources.  Once Jorl and Pizlo begin to investigate the issues with the dead, things get complicated. The draw of koph has pulled in many other inhabitants from around the galaxy and they are not about to play nicely.  Tensions rise as Speakers try to draw out knowledge from deceased Fant as well as almost deceased Fant.  From here the story got very political and could easily relate to many trade situations happening on Earth.  Pizlo's character added the elements of innocence and fantasy to keep the story on track for me.  The ending also surprised me with what they were all hiding.  Overall, a distinctive fantasy that has a lot to offer. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Phantom Tree

The Phantom Tree - Nicola Cornick

In present day Wiltshire, England Alison Bannister sees a portrait that catches her eye.  The portrait has been recently authenticated to be of Anne Boleyn, however Alison knows better.  It is of her friend, Mary Seymour and the portrait contains precious clues that Mary left for Alison in order to find her son.  Mary and Alison grew up together, castoffs of Wolf Hall under the care of their cousin Edward.  After becoming pregnant and being forced to give up her child, Alison runs away with plans to set up a home and bring Arthur there.  Though, the place Alison has found is a portal into the future and for 10 years she has not been able to find out how to return to her own time. 

Exciting and engaging with strokes of magic and fantasy, Nicola Cornick's The Phantom Tree reimagines the little known life of Katherine Parr's daughter, Mary Seymour and gives her an enchanted but tragic life with a time-traveling best friend.  From the time Alison sees Mary's portrait, I was hooked on the mystery surrounding her life.  The point of view shifts back and forth between Alison and Mary's life in the 16th century and Alison's life in the present.  I was amazed at how well Alison was able to adapt as well as intrigued by the series of clues left for her by Mary.  Alison and Mary's characters are painted as opposites, Alison is wild, resourceful and cunning, Mary is careful and quiet in order to keep the secret that she sees visions of the future.  Between the the women, there is a full picture of what life was like for a woman in the 16th century who did not have a male figure to provide for them.  The writing easily transported me to both centuries and I could envision Wolf Hall and Middlecote as well as Alison's modern flat and the portrait of Mary.  Historical fiction rolled up with fantasy, romance and time travel provides for a well-rounded, fast-paced entrancing read.  I'll definitely be looking for more from this author.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Summer Sizzle (Accidental Kisses Book 2)

Summer Sizzle - Tammy Andresen

Millie has been working as a counselor for the summer at Camp Winnipeg.  Her best friend, Chloe is working with her.  Chloe's task for the summer was to try to win the affections of fellow counselor Alex, but has instead fallen for Drew.  Now, quiet and creative Millie has a lot of time to spend with the goofy and popular Alex.  Both Millie and Alex feel lost in love having been publicly humiliated by significant others before.  Now, Alex's ex is back at camp as well. Could they be falling for one another now and could they make it work if they were?

  This is a fun, sweet romance, perfect for the summer that captures the uncertainty of young love.  Book 2 of the Accidental Kisses series picks up right where Camp Crush left off except now we get to see a romance bud from Alex and Millie's points of view.  Alex and Millie are opposites and  written very realistically, like people I know. Once again, Tammy Andresen has been able to capture the vulnerable and awkward side of teenage dating from both the male and female perspectives.  The writing and dialogue is down to earth and natural.  I was able to relate to the fears of dating as well as the inevitable pull of love.  Overall, another enjoyable, fast-paced, sun-soaked romance.  It seems that the next book will focus on one of Drew's band mates, I can't wait!

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Book of M

The Book of M: A Novel - Peng Shepherd

One day in India, a strange occurrence happens- Hemu Joshi looses his shadow.  Not just for a moment, but seemingly for good.  At first, he is revered as someone special, closer to the Gods.  Then, he begins to forget things- important things, like his family and where he lives.  Hemu is placed in a facility, but the plague of shadowlessness is spreading along with the loss of memory.  People are forgetting how to read, walk, eat and sometimes breathe; however, they also have power in their forgetting.  When the forgetting reaches the United States, a wedding party holes up in Elk Lodge, Max and Ory decide to stay and survive there, until Max looses her shadow; Naz, an archer is outfitted with her bow and arrows to fight whatever craziness comes.  All of the survivors, shadowed and shadowless alike hear rumors of a city that still stands, New Orleans and a person there who may be able to help.  The separate groups fight their way to New Orleans, but what will they remember when they get there?

A unique and engaging dystopian read that introduces a new danger into the world.  The narrative switches between several points of view: Ory, Max, Naz and The One Who Gathers.  Through these very different sets of eyes, we see the world slowly devolve as people loose their shadows and their memories.  I was very interested in the shadow/memory connection and how it could possibly be solved.  I was also amazed at how the loss of memory turned dangerous and perception mirrored reality for a shadowless- if you forget a place, it disappears, if a shadowless believes that a deer now has wings, it does.  This opened up a world of endless opportunities as well as engaging questions: who are you without your memories?  What is it like to live without remembering your past or what you have learned?  In this world, it seems that despair and destruction reign free, but through Max and Ory's stories, we see hope and love.  Ory is determined to find Max despite putting himself in danger and Max is determined to keep Ory in her memory by recording herself, but keep him safe by running away.  With an unexpected and exciting ending, The Book of M is a memorable and imaginative read.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Tiffany Blues

Tiffany Blues - M.J. Rose

Jenny Bell has run away from a dark past in Hamilton, Ontario and has found her way to New York with a new name, new look and a continuing dream to be an artist.  Now, in 1924 Jenny's magnificent studies in black, white and grays in an attempt to capture light have won her a coveted spot in Louis Comfort Tiffany's art colony in Long Island along with her friend Minx.  Jenny is inspired by the beauty around her, especially that of Mr. Tiffany's grandson, Oliver.  However, the anxiety of her past catching up to her stays with Jenny especially when another artist begins to hint at knowing her past.

Engaging and mysterious, M.J. Rose has taken the unfortunate burning of Louis Comfort Tiffany's Laurelton Hall and created a story of beauty, danger and intrigue. Jenny's character brought me into the story with her puzzling past and intricate artwork.  Her refusal to use color in her art was a conundrum considering she saw color in everything else, including people's voices.  Rose's writing masterfully created a world of art, color and light; I could perfectly see paintings, imagine Laurelton Hall and the way the sun shone through the stained glass windows.  The mystery was well crafted with a slow reveal of Jenny's past, who was torturing her with that knowledge in the present and stolen Tiffany jewels.  The Jazz Age was also brought alive in speakeasies, bootleggers, the grandeur of Laurelton Hall and the spiritualism that so many people believed in.  Overall, an engaging and fascinating mystery that brings together history, mystery, art and spiritualism. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review

Tribal Affairs

Tribal Affairs - Matt Dallmann

Dahila is a genie who has been trapped for years inside of a stone, a consequence for the sin of loving a human. In the present-day, 16 year old Liana decides to wear her mother's charm bracelet for the first time since her death. Liana's mother had schizophrenia and ever since putting on her mother's charm, Liana has begun to see things, hear things and has been having strange dreams. In Liana's dreams, Dahlia is telling her a story, the story will help set Dahlia free, but it will also help keep Liana safe from Stefan. Stefan is another genie, an enemy to Dahila and now Liana. Liana soon meets Taffi, Stefan's son and together they enter the world of the genies and a tribal feud that has been raging for centuries.

Tribal Affairs is a unique young adult book featuring genies. The writing switches between Liana and Dahlia, Dahila's story being mostly in dream form as she is trying to impart information to Liana in a non-threatening way. I was first intrigued by Dahila's demeanor and story of being trapped inside the stone. The story begins right as Liana puts on Dahlia's stone, so I didn't get to learn much about Liana before she believes she is schizophrenic and is involved in the genie world. I was taken away with the rules, knowledge and powers that the genies in the story had. I was very interested in the different types of genies and what they could do. I would have loved to learn more about their world, feuds and powers. Liana is a relatable character and I enjoyed her interactions with Taffi as well as what Taffi sacrificed. Overall, a fast-past, young adult read with genies leaving me wanting to go deeper into their world. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

A Tangled Ruse

A Tangled Ruse - Laura Beers

Lady Rachel has recently escaped an attempted kidnapping with the help of Agent of the Crown, Shadow.  She was taken hostage by those who would like to see the French influence the English Parliament.  Now, it has been determined that Rachel should be kept safe at her uncle's estate in Scotland until the French threat passes.  Rachel is left with an Agent and bodyguard David as well as a threat to neighbor and older brother of Shadow,  Luke Beckett, the Marquess of Downshire to protect Rachel.  However, when the lonely and brooding Marquess first meets Lady Rachel, he believes that she is just like every other English Lady and she only wants him for his money.  Upon meeting Lady Rachel, he believes she is a horse thief responsible for the slew of missing animals around town.  Rachel believes that Luke is a horse trainer. Luke keeps up the charade by calling himself John. As Rachel and John spend time together, Luke realizes that Lady Rachel is kindhearted and adventurous.  Before Luke can let Rachel know of the ruse, a French threat is exposed on the shores of Scotland and Rachel is endangered once again.

The fourth book in The Beckett Files, A Tangled Ruse continues to excite and entertain.  I highly recommend reading the rest of the books in the series- and in order to catch up on the Beckett family.  I was eager to continue the story with Lady Rachel who, despite her upbringing, desires more.  I enjoyed her attitude of being willing to continue on with life and waking up her sense of adventure even after  being kidnapped.  Along with getting to know more about Lady Rachel, the story dives into Larson's past and we get to meet Jonathan and Eliza's reclusive older brother, Luke.     Unlike the other Beckett's, Luke is not an Agent of the Crown but the Marquess of Downshire  and his father's heir.  At the start, Luke's attitude is distrusting of women and he is a loner and rough around the edges, hiding himself away at his stud farm.  When Rachel comes on the scene, the writing creates the feel of a life-like Beauty and the Beast, complete with large library. The writing also offers plenty of masterfully crafted witty back-and-forth banter between Luke and Rachel as well as mounting tension as the French threaten to invade Scotland's shores creating a way for the rest of the Beckett family to come into the scene.   Woven in with historical elements of the Napoleonic Wars and the madness of King George III, A Tangled Ruse is more than a regency love story. With an exciting conclusion, a sweet romance and plenty of spy action, A Tangled Ruse is a great addition to The Beckett Files.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Locksmith's Daughter

The Locksmith's Daughter - Sharmila Cohen, Karen Brooks, Karen Brooks

Mallory Bright is returning to her family home in disgraced.  At nineteen, she ran away with a man she believed to be the love of her life only to be taken advantage of.  Her father has rescued her and her mother has created a less shameful ruse for her to live by. However, Mallory is still seen as a blight by her mother and neighbors.  Her father, a locksmith has taught Mallory skills over the years.  Mallory is his lock pick, testing his wares.  He calls on an old friend, Sir Francis Walsingham to find employment for Mallory.  Walsingham sees potential in her skills and brings Mallory on as a watcher in his spy network.  Mallory is the key in exposing several Catholic threats to the Crown. Although, as Mallory begins to see the destruction she is causing, her loyalties to Walsingham begin to waver.

From the moment Mallory is introduced, I was latched on to this historical thriller. Mallory is intelligent, thoughtful and eager to learn.  She is desperately trying not to let peoples thoughts of her and her past effect her.  I immediately wondered what her shameful secret could be and why she blamed herself. Then, I was brought into Mallory's world of locks and lockpicking.  I learned about the intricacies of the locksmith world in Tudor England and how valuable a well made lock could be in this time-period.  Through Mallory's eyes I was taken into the dangerous world of Sir Francis Walsingham's spy ring and was able to see the talent and the tasks that were deemed necessary in order to keep Queen Elizabeth safe.  As Mallory trains and becomes and agent, she finds purpose and begins to forget her nightmarish past.  However, as her actions as a spy begin to bring harsh consequences to the people around her, Mallory wonders if the people Walsingham has deemed dangerous really are as threatening as he perceives, or if they are just people trying to practice a religion of their own.  Historical accurate detail of the political climate and descriptions fill out the writing, from stage production, food, dress and housing, I could picture Elizabethan England.   I also don't believe I had ever read about a hanging, drawing and quartering in enough detail to turn my stomach.   A dash of sweet romance from a brusque Lord Nathanial helps to round out this fast paced historical thriller.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Memory Tree

The Memory Tree - John A. Heldt

The five Carson siblings plus their new sister-in-law, Bridget have just stepped through a time portal from 1889 into 1918.  They are still playing a game of Marco-Polo through time trying to find their parents, Tim and Caroline who have taken a detour on their time-travel adventure. This time they are hoping to catch their parents as they visit their ancestors.  Adam and his new and pregnant wife Bridget settle in a cabin in the backwoods of Minnesota, neighbors to two women set to marry into their family.  Greg agrees to travel into the potential dangers of Mexico, hoping to find his parents near where his great-grandparents live.  Instead, Greg finds a woman that may finally be his match.  Natalie takes a reporting job on the front lines of the War in France meeting the son and husband of a friend from 1889 as well as some ancestors. Meanwhile, Cody and Caitlin track down a friend from 1889 that is very surprised by the fact they the twins are still 18 years old.  With all of their trekking through time, the Carson family seems even more scattered, but they are closer to finding their parents than they think.

An exciting, risk filled, time travel adventure filled with romance, intrigue and history, The Memory Tree picks up right where River Rising, the first book of the Carson Chronicles leaves off. I would definitely recommend reading these books in order since so much happens in River Rising. I was so happy to begin reading about the Carson clan once again in a new time period.  I have enjoyed the device used for time travel in the books, a portal that opens only at solstices and equinoxes that will transport you to different times depending on when you walk through. I was able to learn more about the portals in this book along with more information about who uses them.  In The Memory Tree, we also delve into the Carson family history by meeting many of the Carson ancestors.  I am very anxious to see the results of the future Carson's family presence in the time of the ancestors.  This time, it seems to have altered some important events in their family tree.  With having the Carson family spread out, I was also able to witness many events that happened in 1918. As World War I came to an end, Natalie witnessed firsthand accounts of injured soldiers returning from the front in France and senseless killings even after the War ended.  Adam and Bridget survived a forest fire that ravaged Cloquet, Minnesota.  Greg witnessed Tijuana before it was a tourist town and when money was above the law.  Most interestingly, Cody and Caitlin were able to reconnect with a friend from 1889 and see the effects of the War on a family that has been left behind.  With moments that range from heartbreaking to heartwarming and exciting to mysterious, The Memory Tree is another expertly crafted tale within the Carson Chronicles.  I can't wait to continue their adventures into the 1940's.

Letting Go Of Gravity

Letting Go Of Gravity - Meg Leder

"That's what friends do- they remind you of who you are underneath all the stuff people believe about you, all the stuff you believe about yourself."

Charlie and Parker are twins. During childhood, they always had each other's back. However, they were always two different people; Charlie is extroverted, loud, popular and easily makes friends, Parker is introverted, guarded and needs approval.  One other difference arose when Charlie and Parker were in fourth grade, Charlie got leukemia.  As medical bills rose and their parents lived in fear, Parker vowed to become a doctor and help kids with leukemia.  Now it is coming true, as Parker graduates valedictorian of her class with an internship at a hospital and an acceptance to Harvard, and Charlie is in remission for a second time.  When it's time to begin the internship, Parker feels overwhelmed and panicked at even being in the hospital.  She quits, reconnects with an old friend and finds a job at a pottery shop and the weight lifts.  Now, if she could only tell her parents.

Letting go of gravity is an epic coming of age tale that so many teens will be able to connect with.  It is not only Parker's story either, it is also Charlie's.  For so much of Parker's life she has strived to be what her parents expect that she has lost herself.  For Charlie's life, he has been the boy with cancer that people have given up their lives to help.  They both just want to stop being people's expectations for them and learn to be themselves, but they will need each other to do it.  I could easily relate to Parker and was swept up in her story, eagerly turning the pages to see how she would manage the twists and turns in her life.  Even though I have never had to deal with cancer, Charlie was also intriguing.  His journey in and out of remission while being a teen is very sincere and heart wrenching, even when he is ok.  Charlie and Parker's journey took me through emotional highs and lows that reminded me of the transitional time after high school.  In addition to this, the romances were very sweet and realistic.  Overall, a roller-coaster of a story about self-realization and being able to become who you truly are.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Blood and Ink

Blood and Ink - D.K. Marley

Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were both young men who grew up under the reign of Elizabeth I.  Christopher or Kit was guided by the muse Calliope to have an ingenious wit and create wonderful works of written word.  When still very young, Kit's talent was noticed by Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster.  Kit was whisked away from his family in return for schooling.  However, Kit was really being groomed as a spy for Elizabeth herself.  Kit's dream is to be a famous playwright and have his name immortalized.  For this, Kit is willing to do Walsingham's bidding as he works his way into the Queen's favor.  Meanwhile, Will Shakespeare dreams of being an actor on stage.  Will's family still practices the old religion, placing them in danger time and time again. This also unknowingly places Will within Kit's path as a spy for Walsingham.  As the men age, their paths cross again.  When Kit needs to escape for a time, Elizabeth hatches a plan so Kit may continue living, and his words may continue to grace the stage, but at what price?

Everyone knows the writings of William Shakespeare, but how many know the name and works of Christopher Marlowe?  I myself was not very familiar with Marlowe other than recognizing his name as a contemporary of Shakespeare.  Many believe that Marlowe did not truly die at such a young age and the William Shakespeare was simply passing along his works.  DK Marley presents the mystery of the two men from their youth through their deaths in an intriguing alternate narration between the two.  Writing in the voices of two acclaimed writers is no easy task, however the dialogue and narration seemed effortless and accurate for William and Kit at the time.  I loved the device of Calliope as a muse for Kit and a guiding voice; it seems that she might have even more to say.  I also enjoyed learning about Walsingham's spy ring and Elizabeth's relationships with Marlowe and Shakespeare.  Overall, a wonderful and atmospheric historical intrigue for anyone who enjoys Shakespeare, Marlowe or Tudor history.

‚ÄčThis book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Romanov Empress

The Romanov Empress - C.W. Gortner

Princess Dagmar of Denmark or Minnie is a daughter to Denmark's King Christian IX and sister to Alexandra, who would marry Edward VII and become Queen of the United Kingdom.  Minnie knows she too must marry and would rather marry for love.  When she meets Nicholas Alexandrovich,  or Nixa, the Tsarevich of Russia, Minnie is taken.  However, as fate would have it, Minnie marries Nixa's brother,  Sasha, Tsesarevich Alexander of Russia, and eventually becomes Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia.  Minnie must adjust to Russia, a new religion and rules of royalty.  Minnie exceeds in her role and is a driving force within the Russian government.  Although, times are changing in Russia and things become dangerous for Minnie and her family.  Minnie sees that the government also needs to change.  When her beloved Sasha passes, Minnie's son, Nicholas becomes Tsar.  Nicholas' wife, Alexandra is not as diplomatic as Minnie and finds herself in a war of wills with Minnie.  As actual war finds its way to Russia's door, Nicholas heeds his wife's opinion and that of her mystic Rasputin over Minnie's and brings the downfall of the Russian empire with him.

With historically accurate detail,  The Romanov Empress gives an  in-depth and entertaining look at the amazing woman behind the storied last Tsar of Russia.  Told from Minnie's point of view from the time she was a teenager through her son's death, we get a full view of her life.  I went into this book not knowing much at all about this time in Russia's history and I was very pleased that I was able to learn about Russia through her eyes.  As Minnie came to love Russia, she saw the faults as well as its amazing features.  Minnie wanted Russia to grow, change and survive, but as a woman she could only offer so much guidance to the men in her life.  I enjoyed seeing how Minnie was able to affect change in the government, even if the men did not always listen.  I also took to heart her and her sister, Alix's motto of living to the next day: "You will live,...You can do nothing else." It was  very insightful to see Minnie's relationship with her son Nicholas and his wife Alexandra especially when Rasputin came into the picture.  I did not know the breadth of Rasputin's influence on Russia at the time and his relationship with Alexandra and her children.  Maria's story brings us through the fabled deaths of her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  While I knew of this story, I was unaware of the reasons behind it and the political climate of Russia at the time.  Overall, an astounding and epic tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

What Blooms From Dust

What Blooms From Dust - James Markert

Jeremiah Goodbye is known as the Coin-Flip Killer in Oklahoma's Panhandle in 1935.  Just as he was about to be executed by electric chair, a twister developed from a dust storm that knocked down the prison walls.  Escaping with only a slight shock, Jeremiah makes his way back home to Nowhere, Oklahoma by the flip of a coin.  The shock did something to Jeremiah, something for the better.  Jeremiah no longer has such bad nightmares, nor can he see the darkness in men's souls so clearly as he did before.  On his way to Nowhere, Jeremiah inadvertently picks up a boy, Peter, who has limited speech but understands everything happening around him.  In Nowhere, barely anyone wants Jeremiah back, especially his twin brother, Josiah who turned him into the police to begin with.  Nowhere has been ravaged by the dust bowl, turning the once prosperous town to dust.  The people of Nowhere have been beaten down by the constant dust storms when a particularly bad duster rolls through, the town finds that Jeremiah and Peter may be just what they need in order to survive.

An amazing story of the Dust Bowl infused with magic and mystery.  The town of Nowhere, Oklahoma grabbed me and was a character itself. Sold to people as Majestic, Oklahoma the town transformed, fought back and reemerged throughout the story. Jeremiah's characters is an enigma, but one that I really liked.  Without learning his full story until near the end, I was continuously pulled into the many mysteries that surrounded his strange life.  Jeremiah feels guilt for the death of the four men he was accused of killing, but swears he didn't actually kill them, he is able to see the bad and good in people and know their fate in life as well as being able to shield people from some of the bad that comes along.  Peter was another favorite of mine, insightful and caring, bringing kindness even though he has not been shown much during his life.  Even though the characters and the touches of magic engaged me the most, I did learn a lot about the dust bowl era.  I had never heard of the Black Sunday dust storm and the devastation that it brought to an already ravaged area.  I imagine that it would have had similar effects on the people attempting to live in the area as it did to the people of Nowhere as the residents became upset, mean and slowly lost their willpower.  In Nowhere, several miracles occur after the Black Sunday dust storm that help breathe life back into a dying town.  Overall, a unique historical fiction book incorporating magical realism and distinctive characters.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Camp Crush

Camp Crush - Tammy Andresen

Chloe is fun, effervescent and energetic. She is super excited that she is finally old enough to be a counselor at Camp Winnipeg with her best friend, Millie. She is also enthusiastic that she might catch the eye of equally fun and sociable second year counselor, Alex. The only down-side is Alex's best friend, Drew, who made fun of Chloe's perky attitude all of last year giving her the nick-name of Alka-Seltzer. However, when Chloe arrives at camp it is Drew who greets her warmly and helps her with her bags. Chloe learns that she and Drew will be going to college next to each other this coming fall. Chloe and Drew spend more and more time together, but Chloe may still be hung up on Alex. Chloe sorts out her true feelings for Alex and Drew when she is kissed in the dark, but by the wrong guy! Now Chloe has to start all over again after making things weird with both Alex and Drew.

A cute, sweet and easy young adult romance that is perfect for the summer. The point of view switched between Chloe and Drew giving a great sense of both sides of a budding romance that I often miss. Chloe's character was infectious and I'm sure we all know someone just like her. I enjoyed watching Chloe realize that her initial summer crush may not be the best choice for a relationship and watching her go through the confusion of a first love. Drew's point of view was great to read, since he was equally as confused in romance as Chloe. Through their awkwardness and uncertainty, both Chloe and Drew grow and are able to begin a super sweet romance. I can't wait to read book two, which will be centered around Millie. Overall, an adorable and entertaining young adult romance.

The Woman Behind the Waterfall

The Woman Behind the Waterfall - Leonora Meriel

For the seven years of Angela's life, her mother has seemed sad. When mother Lyuda's sadness reaches its peak, Angela uses her intense imagination and her Nightguide to transform and seek out help from her deceased grandmother who now resides in the willow across the stream. Angela doesn't know if it her absent father, the deaths of her grandparents or some other lost dream in her mother's life that causes the sadness. It seems like too much for a seven year old to handle. With the help of the spiritual world, Angela will go on a quest to help her mother find happiness, even if she is not a part of it.

A story of heartbreak and depression told through the eyes of a child who shouldn't have to experience that pain. This story took me a while to get into; the writing is lyrical and poetic with a lot of language and metaphor. It was difficult for me to find the story through the words in the beginning. The writing is beautiful, but I didn't have any context for what it meant. For example, a passage that stuck out to me:

"I am an intricate construction of fibres held together by the pull of beauty, a strange gravity suspending colours and filaments and cambia through long, sunshine moments."

This didn't make any sense till much later in the book. There were also lush description of the Ukrainian countryside, a setting that I found very interesting to explore within Angela and Lyuda's spirituality, cooking, environment and lifestyle. Once I was able to get into the story, I found Angela's character enchanting with her transformation into birds in order to escape and her conversations with her deceased grandmother in the willow tree in order to understand what is happening around her. Then I was able to realize that this is a story of sadness, grief and regret. For at least two generations, the women in Angela's family have passed down the sadness for their role in settling into lives they believed were unfulfilling. Angela takes on a unique role through magical realism in bringing her mother through depression and helping her realize that her childhood dreams can grow and change as life moves on. Overall, this is a distinctive book that deals with many difficult issues while blending contemporary fiction and magical realism. The writing style may not be best for every reader, but if you stick with it, the writing take you on a journey.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.