Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stand Together : "The Divide" by Jolina Petersheim

So, if you have read Jolina Petersheim's beautifully written story The Alliance, then you know that Leora, Jabil and the rest of the Mennonite community had been trying to survive in the aftermath of an EMP, a disaster that destroys all technology and the dependence our society has on it. When the farm they lived was under attack by armed looters, they are forced to flee.

The Mennonites are pacifists and don't believe in taking up arms, but the Englischers or outsiders, such as Moses, the pilot whose plane had crashed in their midst, and a couple of others, have stayed behind to try to hold back this assault on the community's perimeter. Leora and Moses have come to care deeply for each other and yet Moses sends her out of harms way and into the keeping of Jabil, the man who also loves Leora.

While the community rebuilds and regroups, Leora waits for some word of Moses, who unbeknownst to her, has been wounded, and cared for by Sal, a woman with a questionable past that Leora had once helped and who had hidden during the fight and came to his aid.

As time passes, Jabil and Leora grow closer, though her heart still belongs to Moses, who, now healed, has joined a local militia based at a shut down airport. How these two and their friends and family face this new and perilous world will keep you reading and hoping for their survival.

I have to say, Jabil Snyder is such a commendable and caring man that while I found myself hoping for Leora and Moses to reunite, my heart also ached for Jabil. I can't recommend these books enough. 5 stars. A BIG Thank You to Edelweiss for granting me the DRCs!
The Nickleback song below this illustration seemed to capture the spirit of this story! Thank you Youtube!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of the World as We Know It: The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim

This is a book that seemed to come out of nowhere and quickly became one of the Recommender's favorites.  I've read a lot of post apocalyptic fiction, some of it amazing and plausible and Jolina Petersheim's The Alliance is one of the most original and captivating in this category. Although, it is so good it hardly seems fair to limit it that way. If you're looking for a good story with memorable  characters that you'll care about... then, look no further!
A small plane crashes on the grounds of an Old Order Mennonite community in Montana . The pilot, Moses Hughes, is rescued by members of the community and cared for by Leora Ebersole, a young woman who lives with her grandmother, and younger brother, Seth, and sister Anna who is mentally challenged.
As Moses heals, Leora and the others begin to understand that something has happened outside the community. Something big. There's no electricity at the Field to Table, the community's bulk food store and restaurant. Customers' cars won't start and none of their cell phones are working either. It seems the plane crash and the power outage may be connected. Moses theorizes that it could be an EMP or electromagnetic pulse. He explains it as "a special warhead, probably set off hundreds of miles above earth that wipes out technology because of how the pulse reacts to the earth's magnetic field". This event can throw civilization in the affected areas back a couple of hundred years.
"How do we fix it?" Leora asks. "We don't" is Moses reply.
As the outside world rather quickly becomes chaotic, the Mennonite leaders, including Jabil Snyder, a young man who has feelings for the independent Leora, are pacifists. Their faith encourages them to welcome those without and share what they have. Can they survive in a society that may bring  aggressors into their midst? And what of the outsiders trapped and unable to get home?
 Told in the alternating voices of Leora and Moses who find themselves drawn to each other as they try to help the community deal with this challenging new landscape and the threats it may hold.
Ms. Petersheim has created wonderfully believable characters and a compellingly real world. This is such a thought provoking story and Ms. Petersheim such a great writer I found myself thinking about those characters months later.
And, the good news is, there is a sequel! I was delighted to find that Edelweiss was listing the DRC which, fingers crossed, I requested, and Yay! received it (thank you, Edelweiss!) and read immediately. That review will follow, so, SPOILERS AHEAD don't read that review until you have a chance to get a copy of The Alliance!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Teen Spirit: "My Life As a Bench" by Jaq Hazell

The spirit of 17 year old Ren, or Lauren Bethany Miller, has taken up residence within the tribute memorial bench placed by her grieving family in a London park. There is a plaque attached to the bench with a scan code so when people point their smart phones at it... it opens a website with pictures, remembrances and videos of Ren singing, because, when she was alive, she was an amazing singer, in the style of her favorite, Amy Winehouse.
The next bench over is inhabited by the spirit of Lionel, an older gentleman, who tells her he had died of "boredom". He has been a part of this small patch of land for a long time and he is a comforting presence for Ren, and helps her to come to terms with her situation and what her spirit can and cannot do.
What Ren longs for most of all is a visit from, or even a glimpse of, her former boyfriend, Gabe. She wonders why he hasn't come to visit the bench. Then, she hears some startling information when some members of her family come to visit, that Gabe was charged with her death. As things from her past slowly come back to her she longs to reach out and make things right.
The author, beginning with this unusual premise, turns it into a moving story of a young life ending all too soon. The story cuts between Ren and Lionel's dialogues and Ren's remembrances of her past and the events leading up to her death. It is engaging, funny and also quite heartbreaking. Thank you to NetGalley and Nowness Books who granted my DRC wish! Highly recommended!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Heart of Darkness: "Blood and Silk" by Jeffrey Love

Blood and Silk , a gorgeous re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast legend, begins with a curse. The curse is placed on a Prince, Alexiel of Ravenswood, a handsome lion headed figure, by a sorceress, Frytania, a woman whom he spurned. His casual rejection of her after their dalliance prompts her to use all her powers to destroy his life ... and destroy it she does. The only way to lift the curse would be for him to finally accept her. "If not you?" Alexiel asks her. "Then you must find a replacement." The replacement must learn to love Alexiel as he is for the curse to be lifted. Is there someone out there who could learn to love the cold hearted Prince?

Charles Alverdine, a formerly wealthy merchant, now fallen on hard times, his second wife, and 6 children have been forced to leave the city where they had resided and move to a cottage on the outskirts of a small village surrounded by forest. The merchant's older daughters grumble about the move but everyone else tries to make the best of things, including his youngest son, the beautiful Circelae, who loves the land, the flower gardens and later, after he and his father are called to meet with the town's Steward, the town library.

One afternoon, while heading home from the library, Circelae decides to find his way back through the forest. The forest that seemed to call to him. Losing his bearings, eventually he finds his way out where he is met by the Steward who gives him a stern warning to stay out of the woods.

This event will change the course of Circelae's life and that of everyone he knows. It seems he has caught the eye of a King and this King has sent word to Circelae's family that he desires Circelae's hand in marriage.

I won't spoil the mystery of this haunting tale and its exquisitely realized world and the unusual love story at its heart. If you are longing to read something that is both memorable and surprising then be sure to get a copy of "Blood and Silk" ( Oh! One more thing, it is illustrated with absolutely beautiful illustrations).

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Whole New World: "The Gargoyle Hunters" by John Freeman Gill

Author John Freeman Gill's thrilling debut novel, The Gargoyle Hunters, takes you on an astonishing and breathtaking journey into a subculture of 1970s New York City that most of us never realized existed... the subculture of salvaging artifacts from buildings that were designed by architects and sculptors to withstand the ages. Buildings adorned with all manner of  stone and terracotta gargoyles, sea nymphs, Gods, Goddesses, animals, plant life and odds and ends that Mr. Gill brings brilliantly to life.
The narrator of this story is 13 year old Griffin Watts, a  native NYer, who loves the city and all it has to offer. He is the son of mostly estranged parents. His father, the artifact salvager -in-chief, is a man who loves lost New York and its relics maybe more than he does his son. His mother is a bohemian artist who takes in tenants, all male, and allows them to mostly freeload off her often at the expense of her children. Griffin and his older sister, Quigley, a theatre geek girl always off to the next audition, are mostly left to their own devices.
Although Griffin has friends, and a crush on a slightly older girl, he longs for his father's attention, and when his father finally focuses that attention on his only son... you begin to fear for Griffin's well being as he is swept into the life of the artifact salvagers and their obsessions that sometimes leads them to the tops of buildings and to secret worlds unseen by the unobservant passers-by.
Griffin, and his family and the amazing city of New York, its past, both recent and distant, are brought so vividly to life that this book really stays with you long after you've finished it. It is memorable and has the feel of a book you'll want to revisit every so often. This book won't be released until March but I wanted to help get the word out. A BIG thank you to Edelweiss for the DRC!

And, a mixtape review! From Disney's "Aladdin" via youtube

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Second Chances: "738 Days" by Stacey Kade

Amanda Grace was 15 when she was abducted by her school bus driver. In the 738 days that she is imprisoned and abused one thing keeps her going... a page torn out of a  magazine featuring the gorgeous visage of leather jacketed teen heartthrob, Chase Henry. Amanda imagines him encouraging her to escape, something it seems impossible to do, but when her chance comes, it's the imaginary Chase urging her on as she makes contact with a repairman from behind the locked door. The police arrive, the bus driver is killed, and Amanda is freed.

Two years later, Amanda, now back at home with her parents and two sisters, is still traumatized. Her family either treats her with kid gloves or ignores her. Therapy hasn't really helped. She is also famous for surviving the abduction and everyone knows how much Chase Henry meant to her, or at least the imaginary one did.

Meanwhile, Chase Henry, former beloved idol of teen girls everywhere, is now trying to save what he has left of a career. Fame and money had gone to his head and his reputation as an actor tanked after word of his bad behavior and drinking spread. Struggling to rebuild his career by taking a minor role in an indie flick, his publicist has an idea. Why not surprise Amanda Grace with a personal visit as her home is only a couple of hours from the film location.

What happens next in this intriguing, riveting and yes...steamy! story will keep you reading and rooting for Amanda and for Chase. These are two people you care about as they fight to overcome their demons. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Stormy Weather: "Nora and Kettle" by Laura Nicolle Taylor

It's the early 1950s. Nora is the 17 year old daughter of a famous civil rights lawyer. Her mother is dead, killed in an accident falling down the stairs at home. Now there's no one else to care for her little sister, Frankie, or to come between them and their horribly abusive and bullying father. Frankie wears a hearing-aid. The direct result of some of that abuse when she was only three. Can Nora stay alive long enough to protect her sister? To escape from the prison that is their home?

Kettle is a street smart boy. He, too is 17. And an orphan living with his friend, Kin, and a group of lost children beneath the streets of the city. He is half-Japanese. A living reminder to people with a racist bent of the not too distant past of World War II. Kettle and Kin work to try to provide for the children under their protection. They call themselves the Kings and have "King" names. Each morning they fight the men desperate for work on the docks of the city. The work is hard and dangerous and often the danger doesn't come just from the work...but from the other workers who resent them for their race.

Sometimes after a hard day at work,  Kin and Kettle sleep in an alleyway adjoining a posh street. One day Kettle sees a hand reach out a window and drop something. He investigates and finds it to be a small sculpture. He hides it away. A secret treasure. In the days to come, Kettle finds many other objects, objects he also keeps hidden away. Whose was the hand he saw in the window?

How Nora and Kettle's lives intersect is something the reader will have to discover. This is a book I received from NetGalley (thank you NetGalley!) and knew nothing about. It is a hard book to read at times, because of what the lovely, brave Nora has to deal with. and Kettle is a boy you'll take to your heart. These are two people who come to vivid life on the page. People you'll care about. If you are looking for something thought-provoking and a book you'll think about long after the final page, then be sure to give Laura Nicolle Taylor's  "Nora and Kettle" a chance.

And even though this song has nothing really to do with the book, Nora and Kettle have to deal with some stormy weather of their own... so, through the miracle of youtube: the most fabulous Lena Horne: