Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Changing the Script: "Scrooged" by Laura DeLuca

Author Laura DeLuca has given her fans a special Christmas novella featuring one of my favorite fictional characters, Justyn Patko, or, as I prefer to call him Lord Justyn Patko! It's Christmas and everyone has gathered at Justyn's Mom Darlene's warm and cozy home for some paleo friendly eggnog and good times celebrating theYule. Everyone, that is, except  Stan Hope, Rebecca's father. Surly and snarky as ever towards Justyn and his family, never the in-laws he would have chosen for his only daughter. Unable to take part in the joyous evening he skulks home, alone. Even his wife, Mary, Rebecca's mother, wanted to stay to enjoy the festivities, happy to do so without him.
Well, he would just have a drink and watch Christmas movies on TV. That was better than having to spend time with those weirdos! Or was it? Falling asleep to A Christmas Carol ...Stan might find being alone on Christmas ...and maybe in his future... was something he was going to have to face up to, or possibly set a different path in motion.
Ms. DeLuca brings some sinister characters from her previous books back to help Stan shed his Scrooge outlook. Great fun and any story that combines Lord Justyn and a Christmas Carol will make this one a favorite to enjoy now and future holiday seasons! Get a copy here for only .99:Scrooged

Friday, December 19, 2014

After "In the After": "In the End" by Demitria Lunetta

Carrying on the momentum of In the After, this companion volume follows Amy and her ...Stop! Read No More if  you haven't read In the After there are SPOILERS because this IS a sequel!!!! OK, after her escape from the Ward (horrors!!!) and New Hope and leaving Baby behind because she has to find a safe place for them, Amy is making her way through what's left of civilization. Armed with some of the elite Guardian gear, like the emitter that gives off sound waves to ward off THEM (aka the Florae), and the fabulous synth suit that protects her from pretty much anything, and she's surviving until she gets a message from her Guardian mentor (and former rock star) Kay, through her amplified earpiece warning her that the evil, mad scientist Dr. Reynolds of New Hope has Baby!!!! Oh No!!! Baby is one of the sweetest, most lovable characters in  all of dystopian fiction! What can Amy do to save her "sister"???
Kay tells her to go to Fort Black and find her brother, a research scientist working on secret secrets possibly related to the Florae. Fort Black has a terrible reputation. Amy has avoided going to this other settlement but now must brave its walls and guards  and do whatever it takes so she can save Baby!
These are two action-packed yet absorbing and even believable books and so visual you can picture the whole thing going down. They might even make great films, but don't wait for the movie versions. Read these now! The Recommender says so!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steampunk Phantom: "Of Metal and Wishes" by Sarah Fine

A co-worker at the library where I work ( Emily!) gave me a heads up about this when it was published, as a new take on the Phantom of the Opera story so...of course it had to be mine! I fell in love with the alternately dreamy/ nightmare-y world and the haunting love story the author, Ms. Fine, has created. 16 year old Wen lives with her father above his clinic based in a horrifying slaughter house. After her mother's death, she is forced to leave their lovely home on a hill, her beautiful dresses sewed and embroidered by her beloved mother and accompany her father to the rooms they now share. Now she sews tiny, neat stitches in the torn flesh of workers caught in the killing machinery.
No matter how hard her father and the slaughterhouse workers work, the bosses and under bosses call all the shots. Food and clothes are all bought from the company store and there never seems a way to save or much hope for the workers of a life beyond the daily grind.
Many of these people pray to a ghost. There is an altar where they leave gifts and wishes. Some he seems to grant. Wen scoffs at these superstitions. Then, when there is a shortage of workers, some outsiders are brought in to work on the floor, these are the Noor. They are disparaged and looked down on, not as good as the Itanyai, Wen's people, and yet there is something about them. They walk unbowed, unlike the weary workers they are joining and their leader seems to be a tall, copper haired boy with jade green eyes. They had a reputation as warriors. Wen is intrigued but when something happens to embarrass her in the cafeteria in front of the workers, she makes a wish to the ghost, herself, and then is afraid it might have come true.
The treatment of the workers by the bosses and the Noor by everyone is like an alternate version of Orwell's 1984. It's a truly frightening vision and you'll keep your fingers crossed for Wen but I don't want to spoil the secrets of what goes on behind the hellish walls of the slaughter house, or of Wen's discoveries. Or of someone observing from the sidelines.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blood and Roses: "Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran" by Marion Grace Woolley

From Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera: The Persian narrates Erik's time in Iran during the Rosy Hours:
"No one knows better than he how to throw the Punjab lasso, for he is the king of stranglers even as he is the prince of conjurors. When he had finished making the little sultana laugh, at the time of the "rosy hours of Mazandaran," she herself used to ask him to amuse her by giving her a thrill. It was then that he introduced the sport of the Punjab lasso.
 He had lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art of strangulation. He would make them lock him into a courtyard to which they brought a warrior--usually, a man condemned to death-- armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso; and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that we heard the lasso whistle through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose round his adversary's neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before the little sultana and her women, who sat looking from a window and applauding. The little sultana herself learned to wield the Punjab lasso and killed several of her women and even of the friends who visited her. But I prefer to drop this terrible subject of the rosy hours of Mazandaran. "
Taking this snippet of information, dark and descriptive as it is, and turning it into a full length life story of the little Sultana, or, in this case Shahzadi, and her relationship with Erik, or Eirik as he becomes known to her, is quite a daunting task and Ms. Woolley wholly succeeds in bringing this mysterious world of the Phantom's past to vivid, magical life.
The author pulls us into this world, the mid 1800s world of life and culture under the Shah and his harem and the infighting that goes on among the wives to be chosen as his favorite, and the life of the Shah's first and favorite daughter, Afsar (which means Crown), who at 10 years of age, as the story begins, is beautiful and already feared, because, as she says, "They understood me for what I was, Death disguised as Grace".
One morning she is called to her father who has her listen to tales of an incredible circus told by a traveling fur trader. In particular, he spoke of a man, a magician so skilled he could make his voice travel and could sing like the angels, and yet he was so ugly, he had to wear a mask. The Shah promises to bring the circus to Mazandaran for her birthday. When, eventually, the circus does make its way there, Afsar will find her life irrevocably changed by her meeting with the masked conjuror, who, is there any doubt? is, of course, the future Opera Ghost. Here, at 19, he has already traveled the world and acquired a variety of skills through his travels... some of them deadly.
 If you are a fan of the Phantom you will see where some of that baggage he's hauled around with him came from. Don't miss this fascinating trip into his past and that of a minor character in Leroux's classic who finally has her starring role.
(This title will be released Feb. 14, 2015. Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!)

And a song that has nothing to do with the book but has an apt title and a fitting mood:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sounds of Silence: "In the After" by Demitria Lunetta

Amy is a normal, happy teen. She might sometimes gripe about her parents, her mother, a government workaholic, and her dad, who's into green living. She enjoys school and her friends and then, one Saturday afternoon... the world as she knew it had ended. What was Before is over. She has to learn to live in the After. And, In the After, by Demitria Lunetta, is a wild, different, post apocalyptic look at life on earth, an earth taken over by fast, make that super fast, ravenous alien monsters, with incredible hearing that can find you and rip you apart if you just breathe too loudly.
That Saturday, Amy was home alone, while her parents were out. They are probably dead, now. Like everyone else she knows. It started with the TV broadcasts ... aliens had landed and were destroying anyone and anything alive. Then TV was gone, so was radio, after a while. She hunkers down with her books and what food they have on hand. Three weeks pass. She is safe because her mother had to protect the government secrets she brought home and had installed an electric fence which keeps Them away. She also had a gun, which her father had made sure she knew how to use, despite his reservations about having it in the house.
Needing to restock her provisions, Amy makes her way beyond the protection of the electric fence after dark. The creatures seem to disappear at night.  She learns, on that first trip, what to do and what not to. Like wearing shoes. Even the sound of a sneaker on pavement can draw Their attention.
She begins to make trips to a supermarket to restock her shelves. It is on one of these trips that she finds Baby, a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old who has managed to survive, despite being wounded.  At first, Amy isn't sure what to do with her, and thinks if the little girl makes a sound, she'll throw her to the wolves... or, in this case, to THEM.  She decides to take her home with her and Amy's connection to Baby becomes the heart of this gripping, disturbing look at a future where you do what you can to survive and don't know quite who to trust anymore.
I loved Amy and Baby! They are wonderfully realized characters and you fear for them in this frightening world. I won't give away any more of the plot because it is a terrific, unputdownable , surprising and twisty story and if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction (or any fiction!), then don't miss this one!

Simon and Garfunkle's "Sounds of Silence" from Ms.Lunetta's "In the After" Playlist...and the miracle of Youtube

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Staying Afloat: "Girl Underwater" by Claire Kells

A plane crashes into a lake in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. 19 year old Avery Delacourte is one of the only survivors, surviving she feels, only because she happens to be sitting next to Colin Shea, one of her college swim team teammates. Someone who let the team down when he left suddenly before an important meet. Three little boys also survive with Avery and Colin's help. Can they get out of the plane to safety? What awaits them once they manage to escape? Claire Kells' Girl Underwater is a riveting, breathtaking debut you won't want to put down until you know what happens next. As is the Recommender's policy... we give nothing away! You will have to snag a copy  and be drawn into the action as you find out what happened during and after the plane crash and how it affected those survivors. And... you may just fall in love with Colin on the way. Highly recommended! Thanks to Edelweiss for the DRC!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Come Fly With Me: "Unaccompanied Minor" by Hollis Gillespie

The Recommender is on a roll! I love being surprised by books that I know nothing about before starting them. I stay away from other reviews and synopsis-es so nothing influences my reading, and from the very first sentence...Hollis Gillespie's "Unaccompanied Minor" had my attention and my heart! I ADORED April Mae Manning, one of the best and most resourceful 15 year old narrators you will ever come across.  She comes from an airline industry family which included her flight attendant mother and grandmother to her late airplane mechanic grandfather and pilot father and she knows her stuff when it comes to what makes a plane stay up...or come down.
Her Mom and not so nice step-dad, Ash (also a pilot),  who officially adopted April when she was 5, are now divorced and HE is the custodial parent. Thusly...April spends a good deal of time in the air, flying from coast to coast between parents. Her companion on many of these flights is another unaccompanied minor flying back and forth between parents, Malcolm, and his emotional support dog, Captain Beefheart.
I won't give away any more details because April's story is far too wonderful and gripping and smart and so, so funny and... I swear you will be able to keep a plane in the air, or take one down if you had to, after reading "Unaccompanied Minor" (and. also...I may have a slight crush on Officer Ned!)!
I wasn't familiar with Ms. Gillespie before this book, but I am now a super fan of her writing and plan to read her other hilariously titled works... plus, I saw on Amazon, and it's on my wishlist, there WILL be a sequel to "Unaccompanied"!!! Personally, I can't wait!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Outsmarting of Criminals" by Steven Rigolosi

There are few books that can surprise the Recommender, so, recently, while working at the library and checking items in... a book crossed the desk that caused me to take a second look. The cover is one of the best covers ever, take a look to the left. Is that not one of the BEST covers you've ever seen? It is Gorey-esque and yet, unique, and when you read the book it contains you will see just from where the design emanated!
Miss Felicity Prim, as the book begins, is an attractive woman of a certain age who has spent many years as the office manager for a well respected physician in New York City. A handsome one, at that. And, a widower. After Miss Prim survives a mugging, which is a life changing event for her, she decides to leave the city, though she loves it, and buy a home in the country much to the sadness of said physician and the office staff who all adored her and depended on her skills. Miss Prim is an aficionado of mysteries and crime fiction and after having read a great many and been able to second guess many of the lead characters, she decides a career in the field of criminal outsmarting would be perfect for her in new place of residence. She buys the quaint and lovely "Rose Cottage" in picturesque Greenfield, Connecticut. And immediately comes upon a murder mystery... in her own new home!
Does Miss Prim become a Criminal Outsmarter? Will there be handsome men in her future? Can home baked cinnamon buns win her new friends and influence people? These are just a few  questions that will be answered in one of the most delightfully arch and funny  and just perfectly written books that just begs to be reread and quoted aloud! I never heard of Mr. Rigolosi before but I am a new fan and though I am not big on sequels or series... I don't think anyone who reads The Outsmarting of Criminals can ever have enough of Miss Felicity Prim! And, in case you were wondering, the cover is by the extremely talented J. E. Larson. Highly, highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Whispers in the Dark: "The Voices" by F.R. Tallis

The Voices by F.R. Tallis is a very, very creepy ghost story and maybe one you'll want to read in daylight. It haunted me for days after I read it so be prepared! It begins in 1974, and Christopher Norton, an electronic musician and scorer of film soundtracks and his beautiful, former model wife, Laura, who is pregnant, contemplate a move into an old estate in a desirable suburb of London.  As they wander around taking things in, Chris hears a gasp, and sees his wife staring out over the overgrown garden. She has seen something, but brushes it off. She has always wanted to live in a house like this, she claims, and it is the perfect place for a home recording studio and to bring up their future child.
Or is it?
Mr. Tallis creates a feeling of unease and menace that permeates Chris and Laura's lives. Chris, once famous for his avant-garde music, has now been struggling to get needed commissions from film companies, while his friend, Simon's career has grown over the years. Jealous, he longs for inspiration, that comes, one evening, in the form of static at the end of a tape he's making. Static, that gives way to voices. Is he inadvertently picking up odd radio frequencies... or, are they something else? The Recommender gives nothing away! If you are looking for an unusual and did I already say creepy? yes, creepy! ghost story, than check out the Voices, and keep that light on!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"The Swallow" by Charis Cotter

Sometimes the Recommender comes across a book that is a complete surprise and such a gem that you just want to get everyone you know to read it. The Swallow by Charis Cotter is one of those books. I had the privilege of reading it through NetGalley (thank you, NetGalley!)  It is one of my favorite books of the year!
It begins in 1963 in Toronto, Canada. Two 12 year old girls are bemoaning their separate existences. Polly is part of a bustling family, her father is a minister, her mother is a do-gooder of the first order, filling the home with foster children to supplement Polly, her older sister and the horrors, her twin 8 year old brothers. She feels no one pays her any attention and the final straw is having to share her room with Susie, a baby. The only thing that keeps her going is her passion for ghost books and possibly meeting a ghost in person, some day.
Next door, lives Rose, whose family has moved to the house formerly owned by her grandmother only recently. Her parents work for her other grandfather's company and are seldom home, leaving her in the care of a crotchety housekeeper who retires to her basement room after preparing Rose's dinner, leaving her on her own to face the ghosts, yes, ghosts. Rose has seen them all her life. And the house she is now living in faces a cemetery, filled with them. They all seem to want something from her. Sometimes she feels invisible, almost like a ghost, herself, with no friends, and attending a new school where no one speaks to her.
One evening, having had enough of her family, Polly escapes to the attic to have some privacy and read her ghost stories. She hears singing. Could it be a ghost? But then, the ghost accuses her of being one. This event is what eventually brings Rose and Polly together in this captivating and at times poignant ghost story. Ms. Cotter is a gifted writer who makes you care about her characters and as the story unfolds with all its twists and turns and surprises it will keep you involved right to the end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Road Less Traveled: "The Opera Ghost Unraveled" by Michelle Rodriguez

Exquisitely, sweepingly romantic and elegantly written, Ms. Rodriguiz's "Opera Ghost Unraveled" gives us an intimate look into Christine and Erik's growing attraction to one another. Sweet, innocent Christine, orphaned, and living in a small apartment, makes her way to the cemetery to visit her father's grave. She thanks him for sending her the Angel of Music who has helped her to become a brilliant singer. She confides that she has fallen in love with the angel and wants to be his, alone.
Back in her dressing room at the Opera House, she calls to her Angel who replies, he is always there. She begs to know more of his existence. He finally tells her his name is "Erik". And Erik it is, our Erik, hoping, daring to reach out to Christine and claim her but holding back, afraid to face the hurt and rejection he's always known.  He is hesitant, but is finally swayed by her entreaties and... one evening as she waits for him,  he presents himself  to her through the mirror, reaching out a gloved hand and drawing her into the darkness and into his world. A world that will force her to face her fears...and her innermost desires.
Ms. Rodriguiz's Erik is intensely alive, scarred both inside and out, driven to take a chance that maybe, just maybe, someone might see beyond the deformities and love the man behind the mask. Christine, too, comes to life on the page. She is enchanting, and though she is finding her way through the demands of falling in love with the Opera Ghost, she is up for the challenge.
Raoul, finding the girl he thought lost forever, and trying to win her back from Erik, is also believably real, as is the adorable, flighty Meg, trying to keep Christine's secrets but dying to share them with the corps of ballerinas.
Many authors have taken these characters and done wonderful things with the plots and storylines. Ms. Rodriguiz has done that, and much more, as she has given us an Erik and Christine who are human, complete with doubts and failings, fighting against society's conventions with love, loyalty and passion. Who could ask for more?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Leaving the Nest: "the Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

I liked the Goldfinch. Mostly. This is not my usual 100% LOVED IT recommendation because the author, Ms. Tartt, may not have made the choices for her lead character that the Recommender would have liked. "Oh Nos" were yelled at the Kindle, and much worrying on behalf of the characters was done. But who is the Recommender compared to the Pulitzer Committee??? They seemed to like these choices. It is up to you whether you want to invest hours in these characters and see what all the fuss was about.
The opening was one of the most powerful and almost visually stunning beginnings of any book, ever. 13 year old Theo and his  smart and beautiful Mom, a former model and art lover and such a warm, true presence in both Theo's life and ours, the reader's, duck into the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a rainy day to take in an exhibit of Northern Masterpieces of the Golden Age. They are too early for a meeting with Theo's school principal... so they make their way around the exhibit, taking in Rembrandt's the Anatomy Lesson and then, Carel Fabritius’s  the Goldfinch, the title painting, and one of his mother's favorites.
Theo is taken with a girl who he's seen going round the exhibit with someone who seems to be her grandfather, and when his mother dashes back for another look, while Theo heads toward the gift shop to wait for her, keeping an eye open for the girl and then KABAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM! Theo wakes up amidst the rubble of what had been an exhibition hall.
This is SUCH a believable scene and if you've ever spent any time at the Met you can picture the mayhem and destruction.
Everyone knows that Theo ends up with the title painting through circumstances you will have to read the book to get ALL the details. Unable to find his mother, wounded and alone he makes his way home, the meeting place if they are ever separated, and waits, and waits and... the book is about Theo's loss, his scramble to find a safe place, with the family of a rich friend and then with his father, who had walked out on the family a year or so earlier. What he goes through, where he ends up and with whom is all part of this journey. My favorite character, bad influence that he might be, is Boris, a Russian teen Theo meets at his new Las Vegas high school. Boris is left alone a lot by his father, a brutal mining engineer who travels the world dragging Boris with him. These two boys on the loose get up to all kinds of things, but often hope for something as innocent as a real home-cooked meal. So, in fact, yes, I am recommending "The Goldfinch" because it's something of an epic and the characters you meet along the way will make it worth your while.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

50 Shades of Erik: "A Rose in Winter" by Catherine Miller

In this Bizarro Phantom world... Christine is an urchin out on her own in the pitiless streets of Paris and being sexually abused by various louts until she is rescued by the passing Erik, who at first mistakes her for a whore!
So, this is indeed an unusual take on our favorite characters. Erik makes quick work of the current offender and rescues the little stray. He takes her home with him until he decides what to do and as she is both starving and scruffy, he covers his furniture to keep her rags from the fabric and fetches her some food which she devours. Is this the beginning to one of the great love stories of all time? It is, just quite, quite different.
I am already a fan of Destruction of Obsession by Ms. Miller, and this one doesn't disappoint as we watch these two circle round each other and learn to trust, each with their own scars and issues, and slowly allow one another to see what lies inside their hearts, their secret hopes and dreams. Erik is his brooding, tempestuous self... but driven to bake biscuits to keep his adorable Christine content. And as they become closer, and let their guards down... let's just say those guards are really, really let down...  much love is expressed in many and varied ways. Oh, those two!
Ms. Miller's Erik and Christine, in both of her books, have a delightful Victorian air about them and the way they speak, which is charming. Will Christine become an opera star in this story? Is there a Raoul waiting in the wings? Or will Erik win out and have his happy ending? You will just have to read it and see!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Don't You Need Somebody to Love: "The Seventh Mother" by Sherri Wood Emmons

When eleven year old Jenny Bohner and her handsome father, Brannon, set up their camper at an Idaho campground where he's found work for the season, she has no reason to suspect this summer would be any different than any other. They move from camp to camp and sometimes he works at a factory over the winter months. Jenny is home schooled and occasionally makes friends with other kids who live the same sort of nomadic existence they do.
Her mother died when she was three, or so her father told her. She can hardly remember her. So it's been just the two of them ever since. Except when he finds a new girlfriend. And then, none of the past girlfriends ever stuck around for very long.
Now, there's Emma. Emma with her red hair and her friendliness towards Jenny, she even lets her come help her with the camp's horses, one of her jobs. Emma can't resist Brannon's  rugged good looks. Not many women can, it seems. Even Zella Fay, who owns the diner near the campground comments on it, but she also warns Emma not to leave a job and place she loves for a man she hardly knows. Emma, running from a mysterious past, is ready to make a leap into the unknown and risk everything by going with Brannon... and Jenny.
The chapters alternate between Jenny's and Emma's viewpoints, Jenny hoping Emma will stay and become the mother she's longed for, and Emma, who is looking for a home and someone to love her. She may get more than she bargained for in this riveting, unputdownable story that draws us into Jenny and Emma's lives on the road  with Brannon, the perfect Daddy, and so handsome it's easy to overlook his darker side. Will he be the man of Emma's dreams? Or her nightmares? Buy, borrow or download a copy of  Sherri Wood Emmon's The Seventh Mother and discover their secrets, yourself! The Recommender highly recommends this one! Thanks to NetGalley for the DRC!

Once again, pairing a great book with a fitting great song!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Haunted by the Ghost of Your Love: "The Barter" by Siobhan Adcock

 Bridget is a wife and mom. She was once an attorney but gave up her career to stay home with her delightful, darling little daughter Julie, and become enmeshed in the local stay at home mommy culture. Her husband Mark works for a software company and is the sole provider for his family, working late, often coming home to sleep and leave again. Bridget has lots of time to think. About life, motherhood...and death. Then, one day, there is a scent in the house. A scent of earth and springtime...and decay. It becomes a scent that Bridget becomes all too familiar with as it is a smell that precedes a ghost.
The Barter also tells the story of Rebecca Mueller, a century ago. Rebecca was the beautiful, smart  well loved daughter of a local physician whose spinster cousin, Frau Adeline,  helps to raise her. Frau was an adept story-teller, adept especially at stories about Rebecca's beautiful mother who died young. Rebecca marries a man she has known since childhood, a kind, handsome farmer. Theirs should have been a happy ending. Instead, it is a story of mistakes and misunderstandings that cannot be undone. What is the connection between these two women who live their lives a hundred years apart? You will have to get a copy and see.
Ms. Adcock is an adept storyteller, herself, an author who makes you care about her characters and fear for them. She has written a book that manages to be both a charming insight into motherhood and a chilling ghost story. It is a book that will keep you up reading until the last page. There's no higher compliment.

And... not that this has anything to do with this book specifically, but I love this song and it seems apropos:

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.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"The Summer Experiment" by Cathie Pelletier
The Summer Experiment by Cathie Pelletier is a lovely story that captures the feeling of what it's like to be young and growing up in a wild, rural place with a loving family (including an annoying big brother), a great best friend, and your first crush.
The author, herself, grew up in the story's setting of Allagash, Maine, not far from the Canadian border.
It's a summer of strange lights in the sky, something Roberta's family has seen, and everyone else in town, but not her. Could they be UFOs? Or something the Military is working on at the local base? Back in 1976, the area was famous for an alien abduction where 4 men were abducted from a canoe trip and ended up back at their campsite and missing time. Hypnosis confirmed their memories of alien beings on a space ship and one wrote a book called the Allagash Abductions.
Roberta hasn't seen anything, herself, but she has a plan that just might help her and her best friend Marilee win the Maine State Science Fair award and thwart Henry Horton Harris Helmsby, the boy who has beaten her twice before. Maybe she and Marilee can camp out and attract the UFO to them and make it the best science project ever! Will Roberta and Marilee contact the aliens and become world famous? Read The Summer Experiment and find out. A perfect summer read for kids of all ages.

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!