Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Don't Be Afraid, You Can Call Me (or Text!): "idrakula" by Bekka Black

Bekka Black's thoroughly modern take on the classic Dracula, idrakula, manages to be very funny while also maintaining the creepy spirit of Bram Stoker's original. Told through e-mails, browser screens and text messages, we are swept along in the correspondence between Mina Murray, her beau, Jonathan Harker and her BFF Lucy Westenra, whose boyfriend, Randolph Renfield, has been carted off to Bellevue, an insane asylum in NY for, among other things, biting the head off a mouse.
With Randolph out of action, his father implores Jonathan to take his son's place in meeting with an important client (guess who!) in Romania, so, he's off on his first trip ever out of the USA. Meanwhile, Mina follows his trip online while researching everything from Romanian recipes to romantic getaways. He's going to miss her jujitsu tournament, but that can't be helped.
What awaits Jonathan on his journey? How will it affect his and Mina's relationship? Will Lucy get it on with that handsome pre-med student, Abe Van Helsing? I don't want to give anything away that might spoil the pleasure of  this dark delight! You'll just have to buy, borrow or, better yet, download it and enjoy this completely addictive read yourself!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Both Sides Now: "The Secret Door" by J. M. Smith

J.M. Smith's The Secret Door is one of the most charming, romantic, unusual and absolutely laugh out loud funny Phantom books the Recommender has read! That's saying a lot. I have read many wonderful and outstanding works of Phantom fiction, and if they are reviewed here, you know I loved them, because the Militant Recommender only posts reviews of books I can passionately recommend!
The story begins in 1884 with Erik discovering a young girl weeping who somehow  touches his heart. It is, of course, his first encounter with Christine.
Suddenly, we are in present day 2014. Jenna, a young nurse who works in a New York City hospital, goes home early with the flu and surprises her cad of a boyfriend in an act of indiscretion with another young lady! Devastated, she returns to her car and drives away from the shock and betrayal she has just experienced. The rain matches her emotional state as she drives along the Hudson, then, out of nowhere a horn blares and she swerves to avoid an accident and instead... plummets into the river.
How do these two stories align? Back to Erik's lair. He has just returned after the Christine incident to find the Daroga, Omid Javed, his dear and only true friend, though he never admits it even to himself, enjoying his hospitality. Ms. Smith has created a very entertaining love/hate relationship for Erik and Omid. Some of their repartee is deliciously funny! In the midst of Erik scolding Omid for raiding his larder  they hear a crash and a scream. Making their way to the underground lake they find a girl, filthy, injured and clutching her ankle. "Where am I " she asks.
Where, indeed!
Back to 2014 where Jenna is being wheeled into the emergency room after the accident. She is unresponsive. A young neurology Doctor who recognizes her cleans her head wound. "We're going to get you better" he promises her.
The action switches back to Erik and Omid wondering if a mental patient has just showed up on their doorstep, as she claims to have arrived via an invisible door.  This mysterious girl is none other than Jenna. Can she be in two places at once? And what about Christine? How did  these worlds collide and what can it mean for our favorite masked man? Ms. Smith has truly captured the soul and spirit of Erik as he tries to make sense of it all and find his heart being pulled in two directions. And Jenna is someone we care about right from the start. She's brave, sassy and smart and can stand up to Erik as no one else has been able to do before! This is a book that entrances you from start to finish and one you don't want to end.  If you are a Phantom Phan, be sure to get a copy, and if you're not...this book just might make you one!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Walk on the Wild Side: "My Best friend, Maybe" by Caela Carter

Colette was once very best friends with Sadie. At one time, when they were little girls,  they were inseparable. They both loved to swim. They each had two brothers, though Sadie's were adopted from Haiti. There were other differences, too. Sadie's Mom was loving and laid back (and there's no Dad in the picture). While Colette's family is very religious, particularly her judgmental Mom. But both girls felt comfortable at each other's homes and go on vacations together and, somehow, Colette's Mom seems to share secrets and laughs with Sadie in ways she doesn't do with Colette.
Then, when they were in Middle School, suddenly their friendship falls apart. The closeness they once shared now Sadie is sharing and whispering and laughing with other girls. She has moved on and left Colette behind.
Flash forward three years, Colette and her boyfriend, Mark, are looking to spend the summer in Costa Rica with their church youth group. Mark is then heading off to college and Colette and her non-churchy best friend Louisa will be looking at starting their senior year. Her life is very normal and safe and... boring.
Boring, until Sadie whirls back into her life with an invitation to join her and her family in Greece for her cousin's wedding. In fact, Sadie has bought "Coley" as she has always called Colette, a plane ticket!
And, before she even has time to think it over, she's telling Sadie that she'll go. That she has missed her one time best friend and Sadie's warm and fun family and maybe it's time to find out who she really is, away from being the good, safe, sensible daughter, friend and girlfriend everyone wants her to be.
My Best Friend, Maybe is a realistic look at what it means to have had the closeness of a best friend and the pain of losing that friendship. Sadie and Colette are complex   characters. Both are angry and hurt and ready to blame the other for the past. What was the misunderstanding that caused the rift? Can they ever regain what was lost? And, Greece is another character in the story. Beautiful, exotic and filled with possibilities. This is a wonderful book to enjoy on a summer's day and perfect to bring along on vacation. It's not light reading. It's thoughtful and insightful but also completely addicting! Highly recommended!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Amazing Grace: "Grace and the Guiltless" by Erin Johnson

Having grown up in a time when westerns and cowboys ruled the airwaves, the Recommender was excited to read a new book about a cowgirl called Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson. Grace is a tough, smart girl with a loving family who have moved to Arizona to try and make a living ranching and breaking and selling horses.
One evening Grace is trapped down in the cellar where she was sent to get vegetables for her Ma's dinner. The heavy door has slammed shut and she's left in the dark searching for the stick that propped the door open.
Suddenly, she hears horses and riders in the yard above her. Her Dad arguing with them. It's Elijah Hale and his posse, the Guiltless Gang. They have been after their property and even though her Dad has one more year to pay off and own the ranch outright, the gang have other ideas.
Shots are fired and screams and more yelling, she manages to get the door open enough to peek out and see her mother and brother lying on the ground. Her Dad catches her eye and lets her know to stay out of sight, but how can she when her family are being murdered right before her eyes. Before she knows it, her Dad is gone, and her little sister and, after the gang set fire to her house and ride away, she finds her baby brother dead, as well.
Swearing vengeance, Grace buries her whole family, searches out Bullet, the semi-wild horse that only she can ride, and sets off to right some wrongs.
Grace is not super girl. Mistakes are made along the road to learning how to survive and live alone. There are corrupt officials to deal with. There is also, a young man who may or may not be an Apache, who reaches out and helps her when others turn their backs. This mystery man will play a larger role as we follow Grace on her trail of retribution into what will become a series.
Well written with lots of action, some violence, and insights into Native American culture make this a great book for any fan of the genre.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dancing in the Dark: "The Girls at the Kingfisher Club" by Genevieve Valentine

It's midnight. All over 1920s New York the speakeasies are hopping and girls are letting themselves go wild with this new liberation of shorter hemlines and shorter hair. The wildest of the girls are the 12 beautiful Hamilton sisters. No one knows their real names or identities. They just call them "Princess" when they want a dance. They don't know they're sisters or that they have been kept virtual prisoners by their wealthy, tyrannical father who wanted a son and hid the girls away in the upper floors of the house, one at a time and occasionally in twos, as there are two pairs of twins in this long line of sisters.
Governesses have come and gone. No one has seen their mother in ages. Jo, the oldest sister, had the rare treat of going to the movies and came back with the idea to teach the girls, the older ones, anyway, how to dance like she saw in the film. This releases all the pent-up energy the girls have been holding back and they begin sneaking out at night and exploring the night life. Before long 12 girls wait for the magical words "Cabs leave at midnight" and they arrive at their true home, the Kingfisher Club.
This is a book that captures all the vibrancy of a night on the town. the author, Genevieve Valentine, takes the old fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and turns it into a new classic. She brings the 20's to life and captures all the desperate urgency of these girls to live and love at top speed during those magical midnight hours. Jo, in particular, is a marvel. Called the General by her sisters, she can keep a cool head and organize their escapes night after night, year after year. There are tense moments, heartbreak and bravado. If you're looking for something different to while away a summer afternoon with then grab a copy of the The Girls at the Kingfisher Club and keep your dancing shoes handy because you just might feel like climbing on the nearest table top and dancing the night away with Jo and the girls!
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Burning Down the House: "All the Things You Are" by Declan Hughes

 Danny Brogan was eleven when he and his three friends burned down the house of a kid, Jackie Bradberry, who had been bullying him. It seemed like the perfect Halloween prank, setting some fires on the lawn of their home, to scare him and his older brothers.  Somehow, things went horribly wrong... or did they? The whole family,  the brothers, parents and two little kids who watched from the window as the fires got out of hand and then consumed them all. The four friends swore never to tell.
Years later, Claire Brogan, Danny's wife and the mother of their two daughters, comes home from a trip to Chicago. She was revisiting the city where she tried to make it as an actress. And seeing the former love of her life. But nothing happened between them, did it? Now, she's ready to go back to her life as a housewife and Mom in the huge old house in Madison, Wisconsin, that had been in Danny's family for generations. But something's odd. There's a chain on the gate. And stranger, still, no Danny, no girls... and no furniture! While searching the property for clues as to what might have happened, as no one is answering her phone calls, she stumbles over the eviscerated body of the beloved family dog. What happened to Claire's husband and children? How do the past and the lies affect the future of this family? Well, you'll just have to see for yourself! Declan Hughes All the Things You Are is a great mystery that will grab your attention and not let go till you find out just what the heck is going on!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Music of the Night: "Strange Sweet Song" by Adi Rule

I fell completely in love with Adi Rule's enchanting Strange Sweet Song. The author, a singer herself,  takes the reader into the world of the prestigious  Dunhammond Conservatory, a music school where only the children of the music world's elite and the very talented are accepted and Sing da Navelli is both. She is the daughter of one of the greatest and most beloved Divas, the late Barbara da Navelli and her father is one of the world's most respected conductors. How could she go wrong with genetics like that?
Sing has a lot to live up to and although she sings beautifully, she never feels she is good enough, not good enough for her father, who is kind, but critical or the legend her mother has left behind. She has never wanted to play the Diva, herself, and she tries to play down her parentage at the school, and make friends, something she was never very good at.
The school, which is set in the middle of a wild forest, has its own ghost story, or rather murder mysteries. People have been found with their throats ripped out. Some swear they have seen a great cat, the Felix as it is called, and that if it sees a deep sadness in the eye of its victim... it will shed a tear and grant a wish for that person, allowing them their freedom as well. This story is the basis for Sing's favorite opera, one she was beguiled by as a child, and the last role her mother ever played was as the lead in this opera. The opera Angelique written by the founder of Dunhammond.
There is also a boy at the school who seems to like her. Or is it just her connections he's attracted to? And what about the mysterious, brooding Apprentice Daysmoor who is forever glaring at her and ultra critical. What's his problem?
Strange Sweet Song is darkly dreamy and romantic and Apprentice Daysmoor, not to give anything away, is someone you will think about and maybe, if you are anything like the Recommender... become a little obsessed with. And even though I am mostly averse to sequels these days (almost every title I see, now, is part of a multi book series!)... I am kind of hoping for one for this beautiful story! Highly recommended!

Strange Sweet Song-Book Trailer from Adi Rule on Vimeo.