Friday, April 18, 2014

"Betwixt and Between" byJessica Stilling

One afternoon, ten year old Preston Tumbler, a nice little boy with loving parents, stops in a neighbor's driveway to admire his flowers on his way home to supper from playing with his friends. It should have been a normal day, but when the neighbor, an odd, single young man, comes out and invites Preston in for home-made cookies...  Preston is too polite and well-mannered to say no. The cookies were apparently made by the man's house keeper. They each have a cookie, and then Preston makes his excuses to leave. He never makes it home. The cookies have been poisoned. Preston dies, alone, in the woods that separate the neighbor from his own house.
This is the gripping and tragic beginning to this incredibly beautiful and poignant story. Preston awakes in the Here.  The Here is where boys who have died young from various causes, from the Holocaust to abuse victims, end up. At least for a time. Many do not remember the Before. When Preston is discovered, he is different from the others as he is alone and did not arrive in a group. The Here, or Neverland as it is also called,  is presided over by the charming Peter Pan. This Peter Pan retains much of the original character, he's smart, daring and possesses a sort of naivete and cheeriness that all will work out and happy thoughts will get you through.  He also has a darker knowledge of the boys lives Before and where they will go after the Here.
This Neverland  is also populated by ever warring cowboys and Indians, pirates, mermaids and fairies including Tinkerbell. Peter takes Preston under his wing. He tries to explain about how he should forget the Before and enjoy himself, but understanding that this may take time.
Meanwhile, there are alternating stories of Preston's bereaved parents, chapters sometimes almost too painful to read, but so true and heartfelt. And then there is Wendy.
The Recommender's co-worker at the library recommended this book as I was telling her about Second Star, another Peter Pan based work that was reviewed here recently. Jessica Stilling's Betwixt and Between is very different and one you will remember and think about as Peter and Preston and Preston's family stay with you and may make you want to reread it as it is such a haunting story. Highly recommended!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Twilight of the Gods: "Cobweb Forest" by Vera Nazarian

Vera Nazarian is an amazingly gifted writer and one who deserves to be widely known. In the Cobweb Bride series she will take you places you never imagined and bring even the Gods to life as she wraps up the final volume of this trilogy.
If you've read Cobweb Bride and Cobweb Empire you know that Death refuses to allow anyone (or anything!) to die as he is in despair over his missing Cobweb Bride. Word is out and families all over send forth their daughters to be potential Cobweb Brides, including Percy Ayren, a young peasant girl from a small village who has become Death's Champion, instead, and given the ability to put the undead to rest by reuniting them with their death shadows.  She was accompanied on her journey by several of the other cobweb bride girls and a dashing, brave and handsome Knight, Lord Beltain Chidair, who had sworn himself to Percy as her protector and then fallen for the girl as she had, for him. Cobweb Empire ended with Percy presenting Death with a woman she helped to rescue from a dark spell who appeared to be his bride but turns out to be something quite different. Cobweb Forest picks up right after that. Things will be explained. There will battles and land that vanishes into thin air and love stories for the ages. There are so many memorable characters in this series including a pair of bored young aristocrats and an undead Grand Princess and the man who murdered her who will stay with you, along with Percy and Beltain. I won't spoil this beautiful and poignant finale for you but encourage anyone who enjoys fantasy or just a splendid story to pick up this trilogy. Read this series now! The Recommender says so!

Monday, April 7, 2014

"Don't Look Back" by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A girl stumbles out of the woods, scratched and bleeding and when the cops pick her up she can't even remember her own name. This is just the start of  Don't Look Back, by Jennifer L. Armentrout , a  suspenseful, creepy and sometimes pretty funny new book that takes amnesia, mean girls and hot guys to a whole new level.
Samantha, because that turns out to be the girl's name, is the daughter of very wealthy and somewhat dysfunctional parents and she even has a twin brother who, apparently, she wasn't all that nice to once she became best friends with Cassie, another rich, mean girl. They were the Queen Bees of their social set and school and bullied and made fun of pretty much every one else. Only now Cassie is missing. And maybe Samantha was the last one to see her and if her mind would only go back to normal maybe she could solve the mystery of Cassie's disappearance.
So, not remembering much of anything, Samantha tries to figure out what happened and why doesn't she feel as attracted to her OWN boyfriend, who she doesn't remember, as she is to her brother's best friend and the son of her parent's caretaker, Carson?
The Recommender does not give too much away, as you know by now, because I don't like anyone to spoil the fun of uncovering a mystery, so I'll just say that there are a lot of surprising twists and turns throughout this addictive story. If you're a fan of intriguing (and romantic!) mysteries then don't miss this one!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Somewhere, Beyond the Sea: "Second Star" by Alyssa Sheinmel

Second Star, by Alyssa Sheinmel, brings all the beauty and mystery of the sea and those who are drawn to try and tame the waves, a group of boys who live to surf, vividly alive. There is more to it than that, though. In this lovely re-imagining of the Peter Pan story this one begins with a bonfire by the sea and a girl, Wendy Darling. Wendy has just graduated High School and has been accepted at Stanford. She has been on a track towards a bright future all her life. She does not feel quite so on track at the moment. Her twin brothers, John and Michael, avid surfers, have disappeared and are presumed drowned after they chased a monster wave up the coast nine months earlier. This has derailed her family. She, herself, still believes they might be out there... somewhere.
Watching a lone surfer ride the waves, Wendy finds herself drawn into the ocean only to be rescued by the surfer boy as she has wandered in too deeply. Something comes alive in her, after that. The decision to be the one to find her brothers and bring them home.
After a random sighting of the surfer boy at a gas station, she follows his bicycle to a deserted beach. It is here that Wendy will begin to discover a life she's never known, but maybe the one her brothers had lived. And two very different boys who may just help her find the answers she is searching for.
 Get a copy of Second Star and read on till morning as you join Wendy and the boys in their dreamy Neverland by the sea. Two Stars! No, make that five! Highly recommended!
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. This title will be released in May.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hide and Seek: "Before They Find Us" by Michelle A. Hansen

Before They Find Us by Michelle A. Hansen is the sort of intriguing, suspenseful story that will keep you up till the very end. The story begins with a prologue, a meeting in a pancake house between a young woman and a mysterious, long haired cowboy who tells her he promised someone he'd look out for her. Who these two are will be revealed but the story revolves around Rebecca Hales, or Beck, as she's called, a 17 year old Wyoming girl who is aspiring to a career in sports medicine and is completely comfortable in the boy's locker rooms and sports meets as they are, joking around and unaware, mostly, of the crushing some of the guys are doing on her as she tapes up their sprains and bandages their scrapes and bruises.
But all is not as it seems in Beck's life. For one thing, her best friend in the world, Ryan Forsyth, moved with his family to Las Vegas, three years ago. They are still in touch, almost constantly, and see each other at sports events, but it isn't the same. Plus, she's plagued by nightmares. When she was eleven she accidentally witnessed the brutal rape and murder of a teen age girl and she was later able to pick him out of a line-up, sending off to hard time in prison. A prison where he ended up killing himself. Now she's getting death threats thru text. Unable to sleep she takes her Dad's hunting dog for a walk to a late-night mini-mart and ties him outside. When she comes out... there's a tall, scary looking dude petting him. He offers her a ride which she refuses, but, hadn't she seen his truck before? Cruising past her parent's home? Can things get much worse? Yes, they can!
There was a bombing at the school in Vegas that Ryan went to. 9 people were killed and many others injured. The bomb was in Ryan's locker... and no one's seen him. He's not among the dead or wounded. Could he have set the bomb? Beck won't believe it. She knows him too well... doesn't she?
To find out the what happens and there is a LOT more to this story, let me tell you!, you'll want to get a copy ASAP! Highly recommended!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Angel of Music" by D.M. Bernadette

D.M. Bernadette's Angel of Music is a follow-up to Leroux's classic and what might have been  had Erik lived and Christine come back to him. It is beautifully written as the author creates a romantic Victorian style narration which sets the mood for her lovely, dreamy vision of life in and around (and under) the Paris Opera House.
It begins with Christine sheltering in Raoul's lavish home after he rescues her from the Phantom's lair, or rather she saves him when Erik allows them to leave. She is living in her own room and recovering, though as time passes, she has trouble forgetting one aspect of her time underground with the Phantom. His kiss. The kiss she gives him to save Raoul's life. It should have meant nothing. Been distasteful, even, yet, whenever she thinks of it... it thrills her!
Not long after the occurrence they are visited by a police inspector named Berneau, who interrogates her and  insinuates Christine may have been something more to the Phantom than she is letting on, which she can only deny so much. Stressful as this all is for her, Raoul  insists she accompany him, as his fiance' to a party given by friends, where, not only is she the center of gossip... Raoul is regaling his friends with stories of the Phantom and Christine and making things worse for her, so much so... she realizes she has finally had enough. She will never fit into Raoul's world and he doesn't seem to love her as much as when he thought he had to fight the Phantom for her. Now that Erik was dead... the passion seemed gone and he never so much as kissed her, because he could still picture her in the Phantom's arms. She leaves Raoul for freedom and her father's modest home where she can live on the small stipend he left her.
As she happily cleans her small home she decides she would love something to remind her, not of the Phantom so much as her Angel of Music, some token belonging to her long time teacher and the one who truly loved her as she was.
The Opera House is closed after the tragedy there, still she finds her way to the cellars far below and with her lantern searches for the paper-mache monkey music box she knew was dear to him. What she finds, instead, is the heart of this entrancing love story. Erik is still alive, but just barely and it is Christine's decision whether to save him or let him go. Without a doubt, Christine, and the author, bring Erik back to life. He is, here, incredibly passionate, yet maintains a bit of the old Phantom, suspicious at times and even harboring thoughts of violence. New characters are introduced and are a wonderful addition to the world of Erik and Christine.
I discovered Angel of Music while searching for new Phantom fiction to read and this is one that Phans will embrace as Ms. Bernadette creates a viable alternate reality for our beloved characters! Don't miss this one!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Time to Live, A Time to Die...Re-turn, Re-turn, Re-turn : "The Returned" by Jason Mott

Sometimes, the Recommender is so excited about a book I receive from NetGalley,  or  some other source, that it must be saved to read until I can give it the proper attention. Such a book was the brilliant, moving The Returned by Jason Mott. As the premiere of the TV series based on it called Resurrection loomed, I made it a point to set time aside to read it and could not put it down!
Imagine someone you loved, someone who may have died before their time, returned, and gave you the chance to either embrace this person with all your heart...or be completely creeped out by this presence from beyond the grave. Both things happen as the small southern town of Arcadia becomes a focal point for some of the returned and returning, including an 8 year old boy, Jacob Hargrave, who drowned in 1966 and doing so changed the lives of his parents forever. His mother, Lucille, a strongly religious lady with a great vocabulary and his father, Harold, who has became a chain-smoking, somewhat cantankerous older gentleman. The author gives us a true sense of what this couple has been through since that tragic day and how they've managed to get by in their bickering yet loving relationship. The man who brings Jacob home is Agent Martin Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned. He is good at his job and as events unfold in this story, we'll get to know, and like, Agent Bellamy as much as we like and sympathize with the Hargraves. As with any extreme occurrence, the Government and the military will step in with rules and regulations. I don't want to give anything away as this is a thought-provoking, emotional read and one that may well have you going boo hoo and also getting angry and any book that gets you to caring for the characters you know is a good one! Mr. Mott's afterward as to what inspired this book is also quite emotional. So, read this highly recommended book, then get ready to see how the TV series compares.
Below, are the trailer for this book, followed by the promo for the series Resurrection, followed by the trailer for the riveting French series, now on Netflix, and worth watching to compare and on its own!
Book Trailer:

Resurrection TV Series

The Returned: French series trailer