Sunday, December 17, 2017

Secrets and Lies: "Emma in the Night" by Wendy Walker

Wow! This book kept the Recommender up reading till all hours! Wendy Walker's Emma in the Night is so good, and so compelling and is a seriously great read! It is a chilling look into the lives of two sisters living with their self absorbed mother and  begins with Cassandra, the younger sister informing us that one night, 3 years ago, she and Emma both disappeared.
What happened to the girls that night will be revealed in alternating chapters told by Cassandra and Dr. Abigail Winter, a forensic psychologist with the FBI, who had been on the investigative team looking into the girls' disappearance.
As we slowly unravel the layers of domestic drama and psychological games that made up much of the sisters' lives before they went missing we begin to realize there may have been a good reason, initially, for their departure that night.
Let me just say that I have a no spoiler policy of reviewing and recommending so no more details except to say this is a book that I hadn't had any advance notice of and saw it in NetGalley's title list and when I started looking at it to see what is was about... it immediately grabbed me! If you're anything like the Recommender, it will grab you, too! Thank you, NetGalley! Highly recommended!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You've Got a Friend: "Prelude: Allegro" by J.M. Smith

J.M. Smith is the author of one of my very favorite Phantom books, The Secret Door, so the Recommender was thrilled and excited to get a brand new book by J.M.
Prelude: Allegro takes us back to the beginning of a story that we get glimpses of in the Gerard Butler version of the musical, that of how Erik and Madame Giry became acquainted.
Annie Laramie is a 12 year old girl living in bondage to a cruel step-father. One night she sneaks out and makes her way to the Gypsy fair where she pays her way into the tent housing The Devil's Child who, it turns out, is a boy not much older than her, who is caged and  treated cruelly by the gypsies exhibiting him for a facial deformity that makes women faint or scream and brings in the cash for the Gypsies. Annie is shocked by this mistreatment and astonished that this boy possesses the singing voice of an angel.
Returning to the fair she sets out to befriend him. Suspicious of anyone, this tall, thin boy, has never known friendship or affection and is distrustful of Annie's motives. What follows is the touching and gradual relationship and true friendship that blossoms between them. How these two escape from their circumstances to lead a life that we know will eventually bring them to the Paris Opera House is a story you will want to follow as it is beautifully imagined and the first chapter in a new series I will be looking forward to.
Not Andrew Lloyd Webber, but this James Taylor classic perfectly illustrates the relationship of Erik and Annie in this story (to me, anyway!)! Thank you, Youtube!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

"The Romance Reader's Guide to Life" by Sharon Pywell

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life will take you into the lives of  the Terhune family, especially that of the sisters Naeve and Lilly, their little sister Jane and their older brother Snyder.
 In 1936,  when Naeve is eleven, she is offered an opportunity that will change her life. Snyder turns down a request from an older neighbor, Mrs. Daniels, to read to her. Instead, Naeve  jumps at the chance. She will be paid a nominal amount, but being able to get her hands on some of the more enticing titles in Mrs. Daniels library makes it worth her time and before long the two of them have become companions enjoying everything from the Odyssey to articles in magazines. But Neave has her eye on the romance titles and sneaks away the book that will come to be something of a bible to her, The Pirate Lover.
Here, the book takes a delightful turn as The Pirate Lover sweeps Neave  off on a romantic adventure and the story will now be told in alternating chapters with that of the Terhune sisters. We follow the tale of the very beautiful, but poor, Electra Gates and eventually to the dashing and somewhat piratical, Basil Le Cherche, and to Neave's channeling of the lessons she learns from its pages.
As the sisters mature there will be great achievements in their lives, and some shocking, dark moments. There is a wonderful, noble dog introduced. It is also a ghost story of sorts. And the love story of Electra and Basil. Who wouldn't do well to follow the lessons of the Pirate Lover?
If you are looking for a book to keep you engaged, entertained and even gasping in suspense... then grab a copy of Ms. Pywell's The Romance Reader's Guide to Life!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

After the Ball: "Midnight Dance" by Nikki Katz

12 girls, all similar in visage, like sisters, train in a special academy, the Grande Teatro, to dance and be graceful and ever mindful and respectful of their dashing, handsome Master. They even bore the special tattoo of  his elite chosen ones.
Penelope, or Penny as she prefers to be called, is beautiful and gifted, and yet, she feels different than her "sisters". Not as engaged in catching the Master's eye, though he always seems to be watching her. Much to the consternation of Bianca, who is flawless at everything she does, and jealous of the Master's attention to Penny.
And what of Cricket, the attractive kitchen boy, who brings Penny special treats while some of her sisters advise her that they must watch their weight.
Penny also suffers from mysterious, debilitating  headaches which necessitate her vising her grandfather for help.
What is the story behind this special school with all its rules, and its handsome, but controlling Master? Penny slowly tries to uncover its secrets and will take you, the reader, along with her as she makes some unsettling discoveries in Ms. Katz's compelling Midnight Dance which was described in the blurbs as a combination of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Phantom of the Opera. What could be better?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thorns and Roses: "RoseBlood" by A. G. Howard

Rune has dark secrets. And visions she can't quite account for. Her beloved father died and her mother has decided to send her to a boarding school in the French countryside called RoseBlood. Her Aunt Charlotte, a wealthy former prima ballerina, has pulled some strings to get her niece a spot at this exclusive school. Her generous donations to its running have allowed Rune to bypass others on the waiting list for acceptance.

Rune also has a beautiful voice and the ability to sing anything she hears. This can be a problem, as she has to contain herself so she doesn't burst into song at inopportune moments. RoseBlood is a place that may nurture her talents, if she can survive among the other girls living there, some of whom view her with suspicion. And what of the tales of a mysterious Phantom who may haunt the halls of the building. Could it be the Phantom of the Opera? RoseBlood was designed in the 18th century by a Parisian emperor and supposedly it is where the Phantom myth originated, the one made famous in Gaston Leroux's novel. Is this Phantom man or myth?

As the limousine her Aunt sent, to retrieve her and her mother from the airport and deliver them to the school, enters the grounds, Rune's eye is caught by a figure, a gardener perhaps, working in an overgrown rose garden. There is something about him that seems familiar, his copper eyes, she shouldn't be able to make them out from that distance, and yet, they catch her gaze. His face is half covered by a hood. From what she sees, she can tell he is not much older than herself. Why does she feel so drawn to someone she's never seen before?

Ms. Howard's RoseBlood is a very unusual twist on the Phantom of the Opera but a fascinating and compelling one, none the less. If you are looking for  something different to  keep you up reading this Halloween season (or, well, anytime!), give Roseblood a chance. Militantly recommended! Also, this book has an exquisite cover by Nathalia SuelleN. One of my all time favorite covers!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Magic is Afoot: "A Green and Ancient Light" by Frederic S Durbin

A Green and Ancient Light is one of the most exquisitely beautiful and magical books that I've read in a while. The narrator looks back at a summer when he was nine and he is sent away to stay with his grandmother. He is sent by his parents because war rages in some unspecified part of the world and his father is off fighting it. They want a peaceful summer for their son and the chance to know a relative he hasn't met before.
This boy is smart and curious. He loves his parents and little sister and misses them terribly but as he gets to know his grandmother, an older woman full of surprises, she opens up his world beyond the charming seaside village where she resides.
For instance, you should never let your neighbors know what you are planning to grow in your garden. Everyone knows everyone's business so sometimes you have to keep some things secret. Like exploring the woods beyond his grandmother's house.
One night, in early summer, the boy  and his grandmother are awakened by someone rapping at the door. After telling him to stay where he was, she goes to investigate and finds it to be someone she knows. Together, she and this dark stranger step into the garden, the boy noticing it was odd that his very proper grandmother was entertaining this person in her night-clothes.

Not long after, she returns and tells him to dress quickly. She gives him instructions on certain items to fetch and she gathers them together and then tells him they are going to "the grove of monsters". The man who had visited them was an old friend. He had gone on ahead. Where they are headed will transform the narrator's perceptions of the world and open it to things he never dreamed of as Mr. Durbin takes the reader off on a most wondrous and memorable adventure.

Highly recommended! Two of my co-workers at the library had also read this captivating book and all of us loved it and recommend it. So 3 thumbs up from Librarians, as well!

This song captures a certain mystery that is shared by this lovely book. Buffy St. Marie singing the words of Leonard Cohen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On the Beach: "Grief Cottage" by Gail Godwin

Eleven year old Marcus Harshaw suddenly finds himself orphaned after his mother never returns from fetching them a pizza for dinner. After a stint in foster care he is sent to live with his only relative, his Great Aunt Charlotte, an artist, who lives in a beach house on a South Carolina island.
Beautifully told in Marcus's words as he looks back at this new life on the beach,  a place that sounds so perfect, that the Recommender is ready to relocate!  Marcus explores the island and meets some of the locals including a very charming gentleman who is a close friend of  his Aunt's.
Before Marcus's arrival, Aunt Charlotte had lived a solitary existence and Marcus wonders how he will fit into her home life as she often barricades herself in her studio coming out only for more wine, the occasional banana or cup of yogurt.
He worries that she may tire of him and yet, all who meet him are impressed by his intelligence and his open and inquisitive nature.
Almost at once, Marcus is sent off to walk the beach, and to eventually make the acquaintance of Grief Cottage, a derelict beach shack that was long ago the scene of a tragedy during a hurricane, and the subject of so many of his Aunt's paintings that it helped to pay her bills.
Drawn to the cottage after reading its history about an un-named family that perished during that storm, one of whom was a teenage boy, Marcus believes he senses a presence there, perhaps the ghost of the boy. Is this a menacing spirit? Or one trying to connect with him, another boy, who may be able to help him.
Whether this ghost boy is real or something Marcus imagines is only one aspect of this appealing story. If you are looking for something more thoughtful to read on vacation than the usual summer fluff, look no further than Ms. Godwin's Grief Cottage.