Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Doesn't Kill You: "The Last One" by Alexandra Oliva

Right from the opening sentence, which tells us that the first one on the production team of the new reality series In the Dark to die will be the editor, we know we are in stay up all night and read this to the end territory!
At the beginning of this blockbuster reality show the producers have nicknamed their chosen 12 contestants according to their physical attributes or skills or sometimes by both. Zoo, a wild life educator whom the editor has pegged as "fan favorite",  Tracker, a man with a winner's expert survival skills,  Black Doctor, Airforce, Carpenter Chick, Waitress, Rancher, Banker, Cheerleader Boy, Biology, Engineer and Exorcist. We will learn more about each of them as they face the group and solo challenges to come.
They have been given a safety phrase, and anyone who wants out at any time, is to say "Ad tenebras dedi" (Latin for "To the night, I surrender" ) and be whisked away. Those words must be said in order for them to be able to leave. With that in mind, the competition is on. Will anyone break and say them? Who will make it to the end? You'll find out as the book weaves back and forth between the action in the woods and Zoo's perspective of her challenges. We, the readers, will learn that something happened outside the massive setting of In the Dark and while these contestants fight to survive there is an even greater survival challenge awaiting them.
This is Ms. Oliva's first book and one that's sure to make her a "Fan Favorite"! It is so visually written you might feel as if you've been watching In the Dark instead of reading The Last One! The Recommender cannot recommend this book enough!  If you read one book this summer... this should be it! Due out July 12th. Thank you, NetGalley, for the DRC!

And a music video that seems to capture "Zoo's" spirit...Kelly Clarkson singing "Stronger" thanks to Youtube!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bad Blood: "Obsession" by Nora Roberts

When you work in a library you get to know what patrons like and over the years the Recommender has checked out and in a heck of a lot of books by Nora Roberts (plus another heap by J.D. Robb)...and yet, I had not read a single one.
I was perhaps falsely under the assumption that anyone who is THAT popular and can write THAT many books... may not be as good as people claimed.
All that changed when a co-worker (Jessica) said "I think you'd like this book. It's dark."
Me? Like something by Nora Roberts? And...do I have a reputation for reading "dark"??? (I do like subject matter that deals with the world ending or missing people or vampire romances or, of course, Phantom of the Opera themes, so yes, that part is true!).
The book that caused me to realize Ms. Roberts is a writer that grabs you right from the start...or at least her latest book Obsession did. It's a book you don't want to put down and it begins with a brave little girl. One who performs an act so daunting and heroic and one that changes her life and the lives of her extended family.
Naomi Bowes, unable to sleep because of the heat one summer night, watches out her window and sees something odd. Her father going into the woods with a flashlight.
Could he be going down to the creek to cool off? Scrambling after him she follows behind, not to the creek, but deeper into the woods. She watches him uncover something, then disappear into the ground.
What could he be doing down there? Maybe putting together a new bicycle for her birthday. She hides until he leaves, but there is something about her father, a strict religious man who was an upstanding member of the community... that frightens her.
Holding her breath, she waits until he is out of sight, then opens the door in the ground and makes her way down, following a series of strange sounds. Maybe he got her a puppy, she thinks, but it is no puppy awaiting her. Instead, she sees a naked teenage girl. One who was beaten and bloody and tied up with tape over her mouth.
Without hesitation Naomi releases the girl who is so injured and weak that Naomi must help her to navigate the woods into town and to the police dept. In her search for something to free the girl from her restraints, Naomi finds evidence of other crimes. Crimes too horrible to imagine.
We'll stop there. This is already too much information, but the book jacket gives you this much right up front. And like most of the books the Recommender looks for, it is one that will keep you up all night. Naomi is a wonderful, admirable character and the reader will follow her through this ordeal and into the future. You'll have to get a copy of Obsession to see what Ms. Roberts has in store for Naomi.
Needless to say, I have a lot more respect for Nora Roberts and all those checkouts!

And in another mix/tape review, this song, 'Bad Blood' by Alison Mosshart, was featured on "The Walking Dead" as a theme for Carol and it seemed to fit Naomi as well. Thank you Youtube!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reach Out of the Darkness: "The Rainbow Comes and Goes" by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

A lot of us remember when Anderson Cooper reported from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and how he seemed truly concerned for the victims. That was just one instance in a long career, but it showed a compassion rare in today's media market.
Gloria Vanderbilt has been in the eye of the media for most of her life. From the time she was born into a wealthy family, through a world famous custody battle. The media covered her marriages and her design career, her ups and downs. She survived some things that many others might not.
Anderson is Gloria Vanderbilt's son, and for those who never knew that, this book celebrates that relationship.
In a year long e-mail conversation, these two make public some very intimate details about their lives. It is a brave, heartbreaking and enlightening endeavor, for Mr. Cooper and Ms. Vanderbilt ... and for the readers.
As someone who has admired both Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (I have always adored her beautiful art and collage work) this book was a look into their lives, in their own words. It's an idea many could embrace, or wish we could still reach out to those whose lives we'd like to know more about. It's never too late to open the door to a conversation like these authors did. After all, Mr. Cooper was in his late 40's when they began. Ms. Vanderbilt was 91.
The title comes from a poem by William Wordsworth. It can be read here:
Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

This song seemed apropos: Reach Out of the Darkness by Friend&Lover (thank you, Youtube!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Going for the Gold: "Roses and Rot" by Kat Howard

As we learn in Kat Howard's glittery , gorgeous and atmospheric debut, Fairy Tales don't always have happy endings, not for everyone, and when they do... the hero, or heroine, must survive an ordeal to find their way out of the forest, and possibly, into the castle.
Imogen and Marin are sisters. Sisters as different as night and day. One dark and one fair. At one time they were as close as any two people could be... but then Imogen must flee their family home and the way to do that, to survive, was to go to boarding school and leave her precious sister behind.
Now, both grown-up and talented in their own unique fields, Marin has reached out to Imogen to join her in applying to a very prestigious Arts Colony, Melete, in the wilds of the New Hampshire woods.
Both sisters are accepted and Imogen finds herself in an enchanting world of esteemed mentors and talented new students. Settling into the tower of one of the assigned student houses, this one a fantastical Queen Anne, seemingly perfect for inspiring new ideas for her writing project, she unwittingly annoys another resident who had designs on that very room. Helena, a poet, with published works and an attitude to go with them.
Soon she is joined by Marin and a new friend, a singer/songwriter, Ariel. Hoping to put their past behind them and embrace a new closeness as both sisters and artists, they are at first tentative to talk about their past... and the mother who sought to turn one against the other as girls. It is clear they have a lot of baggage to unpack over the nine months they will spend at Melete. Marin, leaving her dance company to seek guidance from one of the most acclaimed (and handsome!) dancers in the world of ballet.
And Imogen, a writer of original, dark fairy tales, will be mentored by her favorite author.
Can anything be better than that?

Yet... there had been rumors about Melete. Those that are accepted must do the best work of their lives. They want to please their mentors, but is there something else going on?  And odd things seem to happen. It's almost as if they are being watched. Eyes seem to be everywhere. Will the sisters gain fame and fortune from their stay? And what must they give up to attain it?
"Roses and Rot" is a memorable and haunting journey. You'll find yourself thinking about it long after you've turned the final page, like the very best of fairy tales and legends. This book is highly recommended. 5 stars. In fact, make that a ceiling full of stars!
Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon and Schuster for the DRC!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bon Voyage: "Day Four" by Sarah Lotz

Sarah Lotz is a pretty compelling author and she writes in such a grab you at the first sentence way that, know this... before you know it you will be trapped at sea on the Beautiful Dreamer, a third rate cruise ship with an international crew and a diverse group of passengers ranging from some swinging singles to the followers of a famous psychic, Celine Del Ray, and her posse.
You will never be able to look at a cruise ship the same way after you board this fictional vessel. As suggested by the title, up until Day Four, all seems to be running smoothly. Then, suddenly, bit by bit, things seem to shut down, or off or catch fire or ... well, you'll have to get a copy because the less you know going into this story the better. Most of what happens seems pretty plausible. As things fall apart and people demand answers from the crew who know about as much as they do but try to hold things together as they await a response from their captain who seems not to be addressing the chaos onboard.
As with The Three, Ms. Lotz's writing is so visual you can picture the Beautiful Dreamer and her saga coming to life in an almost cinematic way. Like The Three, Day Four is also highly recommended! As mentioned in the book's promos this is a companion story to the The Three sharing a bit of the same background which is referred to in this one.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Child's Play: "The Three" by Sarah Lotz

On a day that came to be known as "Black Thursday" four planes crash at different locations around the world.  Over a thousand lives are lost and yet, miraculously, there are three survivors. Three children, one from Japan, one from the UK and one from the USA... and briefly, long enough to leave a recorded message on her cell phone, Pamela May Donald, a middle-aged house wife from South Texas. What can it mean?
Author Elspeth Martins gets it all out there in her gripping book Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy (Inside the phenomenon of The Three)!
She gathers together interviews with relatives of survivors, the e-mail exchanges of two Japanese teens, and much, much more. You won't be able to put Ms. Martin's book down, nor the book by the real author of all this creepy fun, Sarah Lotz!
In a brilliant use of a book within a book you can almost believe in the media circus that surrounds the survivors and their families as they try to make sense of the phenomenon and the religious cult that builds around the woman from Texas and her final words sent via that cell phone. Ms. Lotz writes with such a riveting visual intensity you can imagine it all unfolding as you read. Highly recommended! Stay tuned for a review of a companion book: Day Four!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Out of the Blue and into the Black: "Redemption of Shadows" by Cathy M. Conway

It is always fun to discover a new Phantom author and see what journey they have in store for our favorite characters. I recently downloaded "Redemption of Shadows" by Cathy M. Conway and started glancing at it to get an idea of what she was doing... and next thing, I was half way into it! This is a very addictive story!
The story begins with Erik recovering from a drug induced sleep, a ploy for Christine to come back and be with him at his death bed. The Persian left them alone, so, who knows what happened between them? Two days later, Amir is finally getting Erik to return to life. A life without his beloved Christine. Was it really worth it? It would have been easy to just slip into the great beyond.
But, no. Fate has other things in store for him. He returns from an outside excursion to find someone has entered his passage ways. Determined to find the intruder and possibly put an end to their snooping with his ever ready punjab lasso... he finds, instead, a limp bundle that turns out to be an unconscious, bloodied and beaten young woman. He is taken aback. Erik rescues her and nurses this mystery woman in his lair and as she slowly comes round, between doses of morphine, she claims not to know her name or who she is. What she is, to Erik, is a stunning beauty who has been terribly mistreated. How and why, he might never learn. But one thing was for certain, she was keeping him interested and giving him a new reason to live...
If you love Phantom fiction and are looking for an intriguing new take on the classic, then be sure to find your way to a copy of Ms. Conway's "Redemption of Shadows"! You will be very glad you did!