Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On the Road: "The Phantom's Witness" by Catherine Miller

Catherine Miller has written several Phantom based novels and this one, The Phantom's Witness, is a modern take on the story that works very well.
Christine, a lonely young woman, is part of the chorus at a theatre. Her father, who was head violinist there, died not that many years before and though she has a friend in Meg, another girl who works there, she rarely joins the other members for after show drinks or dinner.
She wears her father's ring on her thumb as a memento of her love for him and after a performance realizes she must have lost in on stage. So, searching for it around the stage and in the prop room, she is witness to a frightening scene, a man being strangled by a masked figure. Frozen in horror, she is unable to cry out or move. The masked man, now aware of her presence, turns his eyes toward Christine who is spurred into action and runs through the theatre and straight into Raoul, a former childhood friend who is a patron there.
Together they summon the police, led by Detective Abdul Nadir, who questions her, and asks if she's ever heard of the Phantom, whom the theatre people refer to as the Ghost. She replies that everyone has heard of him, but never believed he was real.
 Nadir , cautioning her with tales of the very real Phantom's other crimes, mentions she might need witness protection, as she was a valuable witness to the murder, and that he'd be in touch with the U.S. Marshals service about her safety. He finally allows the exhausted young woman to return home with police protection. 
After several days holed up in her apartment as requested by Nadir and the police, there's a knock on the door. A commanding voice says  "U.S. Marshal Service" and commands she open the door. Surprised that she wasn't given a warning that she was going to be relocated, she is told to hurriedly pack and before she knows it she has hit the road with the Marshal. Destination unknown. As they drive, Christine queries the law man, "What can I call you? Marshal?" "
"You may call me Erik" is his reply.
And off we, the reader, go on a thrilling adventure as Christine and Erik travel the country, and learn more about each other and what fate might await her, the witness to a murder, and he, the murderer.
If you love Phantom based fiction or just a great story, try The Phantom's Witness, because you don't have to be a Phantom Phan to enjoy this one. Highly recommended!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Dance of Love: "Prelude: Andante" by J.M. Smith

J.M. Smith brought something new to the Phantom of the Opera canon, the relationship of Erik and Antoinette (Laramie, here) Giry. Something hinted at in the musical and the film version which gave us some intriguing imagery of Antoinette helping Erik escape from the Gypsy camp.
Prelude began the journey of these two friends, who more and more find themselves drawn to each other in a closeness that can't be helped or denied. Andante continues the story.
Arriving in Paris, where, at Erik's insistence, Annie will be auditioning for the Paris Opera House's ballet corps, while he hopes to find employment.
While searching for housing, the two are denied as they are not married and even pose as brother and sister in the hopes that someone will rent them a room. Just when it all starts to seem hopeless, a gentleman overhears Annie explaining that she will be able to pay rent because she has a job at the Opera House.
"You do?" asks the gentleman. "Well, I hope to..." she stammers. He seems kind and is quite handsome. He tells her he would remember her and it turns out he can offer Annie and her "fire-scarred brother" a place to live, a beautiful cottage, and the ability for Annie to audition as he is the Opera House Head Manager. He introduces himself to the pair, Giles Giry!
Can their luck be changing? Will Erik find an employer willing to hire someone with such an amazing variety of skills and talents and look beyond that mask? Will Annie fulfill her dream of dancing professionally? And what about Monsieur Giry? How will Annie make the leap to become the Madame Giry we all know and love?
Will we find out in this sequel? Get a copy and see for yourself! The good news is... there's more to come! We just have to wait for the next chapter of this series for this fascinating love story to continue!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Living Dangerously: "Lessons in Gravity" by Megan Westfield

The Recommender is a big fan of Megan Westfield's Leaving Everest, and couldn't wait to read her first book, Lessons in Gravity, which I have now finished. Ms. Westfield really captures the life of people who live on the edge and engage in sports that most people can only read about.
April Stephens is a film school student who needed an internship and thanks to a student film she'd made she was able to snag a place with Walkabout Films an outdoor documentary film company who are currently stationed in Yosemite National Park to film a well known rock climber, Josh Knox, who is about to free climb, that is, without ropes,  one of the most treacherous mountains in the park, the Sorcerer.
April, though, is dealing with some issues that might get in the way of her dream to become a film maker and the amazing opportunity she has accepted. She suffers from anxiety due to witnessing her father die in a horrible accident. He was a stunt pilot whose plane crashed at an airshow in front of hundreds of people.
The film crew, however, know nothing of April's past and encourage her to join in the filming by interviewing Josh, the "talent" or star of the film, on camera.
The handsome rock climber seems to find April and her questions annoying, and she has trouble dealing with the surly star. Plus, her boss wants her to learn to climb so she can be more a part of the process.
Will April be able to put her fears aside and fit in with the crew. Can She and Josh get past their mutual personality problems and work together? You will have to read this beautifully written, breathtakingly romantic story for yourself to find out!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Aftermath: "Fever" by Deon Meyer

"Fever" by Deon Meyer, is a riveting, epic story of survival after a global pandemic fever has wiped out a good percentage of the world's population. Set in South Africa, it is primarily the story of Nico Storm and his father, Willem. Written in the form of a memoir looking back on this time, and as Nico says in the opening paragraph, it is also the story of his father's murder. Nico's narration takes you back to their first days after this devastation. Having survived the outbreak Nico, then aged 13, and Willem travel across the land in a tractor trailer in which they haul the remainders of their lives, food, books, medicine. As they travel, Willem teaches Nico about everything from the cloud formations to history lessons, to, probably his most useful lesson of all, how to shoot. As they pause to refuel at an abandoned fueling station, Nico's eye catches movement. Before they can react a pack of wild dogs is upon them, cutting Willem off from the truck where he has sent Nico to safety, and fighting them off with a wrench, instructs his son to get the pistol and shoot them which he does, helping to hold them off until his wounded father reaches the truck, and takes the gun wiping out the rest of the pack. Taken ill by the dog bites he's suffered, Nico and Willem seek refuge in an empty house, where Willem rides out the fever brought on by the carrion eating animals. Holed up in the house, terrified for his sick father, Nico hears the unsettling sound of human voices. Peering through the window he sees two men investigating their truck, and then peering through the windows eventually deciding to shoot off the door locks before turning away and driving off in a jeep in which they also have a woman, their apparent hostage. What happens next will change Nico forever, it will make him look at his father in a different light. We will, also, soon meet characters whose stories begin to intersperse with that of Nico's, including Domingo, someone who will become a major influence on Nico's life, and his father's, as they set about trying to create a new world. This is a book I was so immersed in I had to stay up late for many nights to follow the story. It is so memorable you will find yourself thinking about it long after you've finished it. And Domingo! What a fantastic, brave and colorful character. I could read a whole book just based on him. If you love a good story and one that will keep you up and wondering what will happen then look no further than Mr. Meyer's brilliant novel!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Love at the Top: "Leaving Everest" by Megan Westfield

Emily Winslowe's life has been one of adventure, following her mountaineer Dad to some of the highest, most dangerous peaks in the world, and she has been able to hold her own, summiting even Everest, alongside him and the climbers who he guides through his company Winslowe Expeditions. She loves the mountains and can't imagine a life without having access to them.
There's one other thing that she enjoys, a game of filming a 360 degree video panorama of her summits called #YCCM and checking those of someone else, those of Luke,  a boy she has know most of her life who is now attending college in the US.
This summer is looking to be a challenging one for Emily. There's the Everest climb with her Dad, and finding a way to tell him she has decided not to go to Washington State to attend a college where she has a free ride. She has already taken a gap year. Her dream, instead, is to climb the top 5 mountains in the world.
 Returning from a climb, the Father and daughter take a break at the home of Mingma, a Sherpa woman friend and the widow of a man who had been an associate of her Dad and his company, killed in a climbing accident. She is also the mother of Luke, and a younger son, Pasang.
Emily has been longing to see Luke. He is not only her best friend, but someone she dares not tell that she has secretly been in love with him for years. Her heart stood still when she started noticing an American girl show up in some of Luke's videos.
As they are preparing for a meal at Mingma's, suddenly, there is someone leaning in the doorway. Emily can hardly believe what she is seeing. Is it really Luke? How can he be here and she not have known?
And so begins a heart-stopping adventure story and a completely believable love story set in a part of the world most of us only get to in movies or books and Ms. Westfield makes you, the reader, a part of the expedition. You will experience what it's like in the build up to making the attempt to climb the most treacherous mountain in the world and get caught up in Luke and Emily's love story, one of unspoken feelings, secrets and surprises. This is a book you will want to revisit, and characters so real you want to follow their journey beyond the pages of this wonderful story. Plus, I LOVE the cover! 10 Stars (and 10 mountain peaks)!  Highly recommended! Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Try to Remember: "The Final Girls" by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl. She was the last girl standing at the end of her own private horror movie... the one where her college friends were all murdered at the cabin they were staying in for a celebratory weekend. Instead of making memories to last a lifetime, the only memories are the ones haunting Quincy. That weekend was 10 years ago. The incident was so shocking she has buried the details deep in her subconscious.
     Now, she makes a living baking exotic, fancy baked goods, photographing them and blogging about them. She lives with her public defender boyfriend and takes the occasional Xanax when things get too stressful for her. The other constant in her life is Coop, the policeman who arrived at the scene of the murders and discovered a blood covered Quincy escaping the woods and running straight to him, begging for help. He's been there for her ever since, anytime she needs him.
There have been two other Final Girls over the years, one of whom reached out to Quincy. The other went underground to escape the media coverage. They knew what happened to them. One wrote a book about it. Will Quincy remember what went down that night? Or are these details buried for a reason best left forgotten?
    Miss Sager's "Final Girls" is absolutely gripping, surprising and unputdownable! The Recommeder stayed up really LATE to find out what happened and then was heard to be yelling "NO!" at the kindle, so it is THAT kind of book and one that I highly recommend! If you love thrillers, books with intriguing characters and an ending that will keep you thinking about it long after the last page... then be sure to read The Final Girls! A BIG Thank you to Edelweiss for the DRC!

Friday, February 2, 2018

"Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers" by Sara Ackerman

I have to say, right up front, that I completely fell in love with the world author Sara Ackerman  has created in Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers! It is a charming and heartfelt story of family, girlfriends and soldiers stationed on a lovely Hawaiian island during WWII, after Pearl Harbor, and brings that time period to vivid visual life so realistically  you can picture all the characters coming alive on the page. 
Violet Iverson is a young woman who is the Mom of Ella, a troubled 10 year old girl. One day, a year previously, Violet's husband, and Ella's father, Herman, mysteriously disappeared. Despite all the sheriff's investigations, there is not a trace of this good family man and Principal of the local school. At the same time, Ella began shutting down and exhibiting signs of stress. Is it just a young girl's sadness at the disappearance of her father? Or something more?
Trying to move on with life, Violet, who is also a teacher at the school her husband had been Principal of, has invited Jean, another teacher to share her home and the two women create a warm and loving space for Ella, as they try to comfort the girl. Other friends include a Japanese family who run a small school and the problems they face during this time period. And, of course, there are the soldiers who are stationed on the island. Jean's brother surprises her by showing up at the house the women share and brings along some soldier buddies... one of whom seems to take a shine to Violet. These soldiers also have a rather unusual mascot... a lion cub named Roscoe. Will Roscoe help Ella come out of her shell? Grab a copy of  The Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers and enjoy finding out for yourself! Thank you, Edelweiss for the DRC!
This book should come with a warning because if you don't live in Hawaii... the descriptions of the locale may make you want to relocate!
And, here's a link to the pie recipes the author shares
This is a link to a story about the real Marines stationed on the island during WWll and their real mascot: Roscoe, and a photo of a combat photographer, Richard "Dick" Stotz: Marine Corps Combat Photographer at Iwo Jima stationed there with Roscoe:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

All in the Family: "About Face" by Wendy Coles-Littlepage

When we last left Erik and his beloved, Sylvie, the beauty who had been his former cook, in Ms. Coles-Littlepage's first entrancing Phantom story Disfigured, they were
happily newly married.
In this continuation, Sylvie and Erik Bessette (Erik having adopted Sylvie's surname) and their young daughter, Marie, now live on a beautiful chateau estate complete with a vineyard. Their dear friend Celestine Giry lives there as well and Erik had also gathered a company of interesting characters to work the vineyard and care for the estate. All seems perfect. Sylvie is expecting a second child and while it was true, this was a much harder pregnancy than her first, the couple sees no reason things with this one should not go as well.
But then, an unexpected and surprising visitor arrives on the estate. It is none other than Christine Daae! She is now, not surprisingly the Comtesse de Chagny. But how did she ever find them? The reunion is tense, Erik greets her without his mask, she knows what he looks like, he mutters to Sylvie.
After introductions are made, Christine says she was merely visiting friends in the area and decided to see if she could find Erik and see how he... and Celestine , and now, Erik's wife and child were all doing. Tea is served and Erik abruptly exits leaving Sylvie to face her mythical rival, the woman whom Erik destroyed the Opera House for and caused him to leave so much devastation and death in the wake of his mad passion for her. They make awkward conversation, some confidences are shared before Celestine arrives and she and Christine are reunited.
 Erik, having stalked off,  leaving the two most important women in his life alone, is still bewildered by Christine's presence and all the memories it stirred up. Eventually, gathering Marie, he returns. Christine fusses a bit over Marie before Sylvie requests Celestine join her and Marie in the garden to admire the flowers and also giving Erik and Christine the opportunity to speak privately. Which they do, before she takes her leave.
Her visit was not a mere social call, it seems, but the beginning of a betrayal that leads both Erik and Sylvia along paths not of their choosing and adventures they might not have dreamed of nor hoped for. About Face is a worthy follow-up and a sequel any Phantom phan will want to read!