Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"The Bloody Shoe Affair" by Joy York

These days, with kids wired to a variety of devices and actual face time becoming a thing of the past (unless the face they are interacting with is on a screen), you might forget that not that long ago kids had adventures and hanging with friends was filled with conversation, laughs, surprises...and maybe even solving a mystery or two. Joy York's delightful The Bloody Shoe Affair: a Daring and Thrilling Adventure with the Jailer's Daughter brings back a more innocent, and yet fun time. Set in 1968, Christi and her family are visiting relatives in the small town of Roselyn, Mississippi. It's her grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. Christi is going to be staying with her cousin, Lily, while the rest of the family heads to her grandparent's farm.
Lily is smart, spunky, popular and very pretty. She is also the daughter of the county jailer and the jail is attached to their house. Criminals come and go, deputies guard the entry and Lily's mom makes sure everyone is well fed with home-cooked meals.
Lily is also always up for adventure and not above playing pranks on Christi, though they are best friends. Christi adores her cousin and the experiences they've shared over the years... but on this particular visit she may have more adventure than she bargained for.
The night before Christi arrives, Lily is already trying to figure out why her father and the deputies have been so hush-hush about a new prisoner. And then, there's a bag with a bloody pair of women's shoes! What could be going on? And before she knows it, Christi is caught up in the web of secrets, intrigue and ...well, there are some cute boys in the mix, too, so this has all the makings of the most memorable summer ever! Grab a copy and join  the girls as they track down clues and try to uncover the big secret of the mystery of the bloody shoes!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Teen Spirit: "Boo" by Neil Smith

Sometimes you come across a book that is so original you want everyone you know to read it. Boo by Neil Smith is such a book. It is very funny, yet also quite poignant. And thoughtful. It is a book you will remember as our lead character, 13 year old Oliver "Boo" Dalrymple, has such a memorable voice and presence.

 Boo is, or should we say was, a boy who is super smart yet lacking a bit in social skills. The story is set in 1979 so he has to deal as best he can. Today he would probably be coded and placed on some spectrum or other. He is called Boo because he is pale, almost albino pale, and has blonde stick-uppy hair. He was born with a defective heart which would have caused him some problems later in life. He is also the main target of Helen Keller Jr. High's bullies. There are boys in his class who live to make Boo miserable. Or did. But something happened one day as he stood at his locker, memorizing the Periodic table and gazing at photos of his two heroes, Richard Dawkins and Jane Goodall. He dies.

And then wakes up again in a fascinating afterlife called Town which is a kind of Heaven that is populated only by 13 year old Americans. As Boo adjusts to this new life he writes it all down for his devoted parents who may never see it, but it gives him purpose and us his story.

And as his story unfolds, he finds that it is easier to actually make friends and be accepted in this other world than on earth. One person he befriends is a boy who died the same day. A boy who had been kind to Boo back home.  A handsome, popular boy. We will find out how they both ended up here and Boo will realize it may not have been his holey heart that gave out on him.
The Recommender LOVED this book. If you are looking for something different to read this summer, check out Boo. It is about as delightfully different as you can get. Thank you to Edelweiss for the DRC!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pen Pals: "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend" by Katarina Bivald

Sara Lindqvist  is a young woman from Sweden who has never really had an adventure besides the ones she read about in the books from the book shop where she'd worked. For several years she has corresponded with and exchanged  books with an elderly lady named Amy Harris who lived in a small Iowa town called Broken Wheel.
As their friendship grows over their mutual love of reading, Sara is finally ready to experience something new and despite her parents reservations, and their pushing her to visit New York or Los Angeles, Sara finds herself, one day, in the center of the town of Hope, Iowa, with a book by Louisa May Alcott, a large suitcase and in need of a ride to Broken Wheel.
So begins one of the most delightful of stories and one that will warm the heart of any book lover. Like Sara,  the reader will get to know and love Broken Wheel and its quirky yet kind inhabitants. I won't spoil this absolutely enchanting story for you, better you should get a copy and join Sara, Amy and the good people of Broken Wheel on an adventure you won't soon forget.  Highly Recommended by the Recommender! Thank you to Edelweiss for the DRC!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Me and My Shadow: "The Angel's Shadow" by Louise Anne Bateman

In  Louise Anne Bateman's The Angel's Shadow Meg comes out of the fiction shadows to take her place as the star of this very intriguing retelling of the Phantom's story. This Meg is a girl of contradictions. On the one hand, she is caught up in the world of ballet and the opera, a loyal friend and confidant to Christine Daae' and a loving daughter to her single Mom, ballet mistress and concierge of the Paris Opera House, Madame Antoinette Giry. But on the other, she is fighting off a darkness she doesn't quite understand, and is also a girl who acts on her impulses.
One impulse was to sneak out of the safety of the Opera House one night to meet a man she doesn't really know. When this man attempts to have his way with her... someone steps out of the shadows and rescues her. Part of this rescue is the dark figure taking care of business by murdering the potential rapist. She is grateful, but a bit concerned at the loss of life. Who is this man who was willing to kill for her? As she begins to realize that the rumors and gossip about the Opera Ghost who haunts the hidden recesses of the Opera House is, in fact, a reality, and that both Christine and her mother have connections to this Phantom, her curiosity gets the better of her, and we follow Meg as she uncovers these secrets... and so much more! For the Erik who has saved her, might also hurt her in ways she can't imagine, and yet, she finds herself continuously drawn to this dark and damaged man. And you, dear reader, will be, too! Let me just say that I am looking forward to book 2! Which I hope will be very, very soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Little Help from Your Friends:"The Happy Hour Choir" by Sally Kilpatrick

Beulah Land plays the piano and sings at a local honky-tonk bar called the Fountain. It sits across the street from  the County Line Methodist Church, a place that was part of her past and that's where she wants to keep it, but one evening, while playing country songs and requests from the regulars, a man walks in, a very attractive one, who orders a beer and sits down to listen. When Bill, the proprietor of the Fountain, calls for Beulah's signature song, the one she was named after, the old hymn, "Beulah Land"... this new guy frowns, even as all the patrons sing along with her. He doesn't like her risqué spin on it. "What are you?" she questions "Some kind of preacher?" "Fully ordained" he replies.
Thus begins this engaging and heartfelt story filled with equally engaging and heartfelt characters. Beulah, having gone through a teen pregnancy and kicked out by her preacher father and unforgiving mother has the good luck to be rescued and taken in by her piano teacher, Ginger Belmont, an old lady with spirit, gumption and the ability to straight talk anyone who deserved it, no matter their standing in the community.  Beulah is devoted to Ginger, and despairing at the fact that Ginger is ailing. Ginger, though, is not one to lie down and give up. She has some business to take care of first, like maybe getting Beulah fixed up with someone nice and possibly saving some other people out there that need rescuing. Ginger is one of those wonderful women you want in your corner. In fact, I think we all need a Ginger telling it like it is and bossing us around but only with our best interests at heart.
There's a lot more to author Sally Kilpatrick's The Happy Hour Choir, but, as is my policy, you've got to go get a copy to find out what happens and also enjoy the company of  Beulah, Ginger, Luke (the preacher) and a whole lot of other interesting types you'll meet hanging in and around the Fountain. This one's a great summer-time read. Heck, it's a great read anytime of year!
Thanks to NetGalley for the DRC!

This may not be Beulah's version of this old song but thanks to Youtube I found this very sweet version by Hope Montana singing at the Baker Creek Festival:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Passion Play: "Scripted in Love's Scars" by Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez brings something new to the Phantom canon. I adored her Opera Ghost Unraveled and her short stories are breathtakingly romantic. Now, she has released another full length Phantom novel, Scripted in Love's Scars,  and needless to say, she doesn't disappoint!
The story begins when Christine is being inducted into the Paris Opera House ballet corps. A rite of passage is to shove the aspiring ballerinas, one at a time, into the first cellar of the Opera House and hold the door closed for several minutes to see if she would survive an encounter with the Opera Ghost. He was more myth to them than reality, and when confronted by the ghost himself, most of the girls would shriek and panic and then, later, add their tale to the Opera Ghost legend.
Christine is pushed through the door into the blackness of the cellar. She doesn't have long to wait before the Ghost makes an appearance. But something is different about this girl, Erik finds. She stares back at him, and for moments they are locked in each other's gaze, Erik captivated, yet feeling oddly exposed, even though he wore his mask. Then she is gone, as Meg pulls her back into the light.
But not gone for good, as this is where Erik realizes their destinies would become intertwined, as he thinks, and not long after, materializes before her in the closed up Opera House, as Christine tries to rehearse her ballet moves, alone on the stage. At first he is a voice from the darkened theatre, giving her suggestions on how to improve on her ballet training... but, when he finds her heart is not in the dance, but in music... he comes closer, becomes her Angel of Music... and well, so much more!
So, we do have our Erik and Christine passion play brought about with a fresh interpretation, but we also have a drama to contend with, about which I will say no more, because there were moments that were so tense and suspenseful and...well, I really wondered what was going to happen, and on more than one occasion I had to shout "Oh NO!!!" at my copy of this wonderfully addictive story! This was one of those books you don't want to end it is so good and it's one I highly recommended for Phantom Phans or anyone who enjoys a good, compelling and genuinely romantic story!

Another unique aspect to Ms. Rodriguez's books is the very talented cover artist, photographer and designer she works with, Jessica Elizabeth. I've come to look forward to her vision of each book as she captures the spirit of Erik and Christine on each cover so perfectly!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Back to the Future: "The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster" by Scott Wilbanks

Sometimes a book comes along that is so appealing it entices you from the first line and sweeps you along to the end while making you believe totally in its reality along the way . The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, by Scott Wilbanks, is such a book. It is completely charming, filled with endearing characters and even dastardly villains. It has time travel, not old hat time travel, but something new. A red door that is purchased on a whim.
The day after its installation in Annie Aster's Purple Victorian she opens it to go out to her back garden and finds... not her usual plants and whatnot... but a wheat field. And across the wheat field sits a cabin. And in a brass mailbox attached to her garden gate Annie finds a letter. From the occupant of the cabin. For this occupant, an irascible, widowed, retired schoolmarm, had noticed that there was a strange house sitting in her back 40. And she is not happy about it, she lets Annie know. The letter is dated 1895.
Annabelle Aster is a modern young woman living in 1995 San Francisco. She leans toward a vintage Victorian style of dress, and being very beautiful, pulls this look off quite naturally. She is an orphan, having been raised by two university professors and a marvelous Godmother. She has, since their passing, been living alone in the house she inherited. Her one great friend is a handsome young man named Christian who is a kindred spirit with a pronounced stutter.
It is with Christian she shares her discovery. And the fact that she has replied to the letter. This correspondence across place and time is the key to what will follow and what will be discovered, uncovered and... well, there are other surprises in store. We will also meet some other beguiling personages from the present and from the past, including Cap'n. A street urchin that would make even the Artful Dodger and Fagin proud.
This book is such a complete delight you'll find yourself wanting to go back in time, too... or, at least, back to the beginning of this story to relive the mystery, fun and romance all over again! Very highly recommended!
And, OK, this title is not coming out until August but I just had to help get the word out! Thank you to NetGalley for making this wonderful book available for reviewing!