Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Ghosted: "Haunted" by Laura DeLuca

 I am always excited when there is a new "Dark Musicals" book by Laura Deluca, especially when it stars one of my all time favorite fictional characters, Lord Justyn Patko, and his lovely, smart and brave wife Lady Rebecca Hope-Patko! 

There may be spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't read this series, so be aware and if you haven't read the series begin with Phantom, and meet Lord Justyn and Rebecca at the beginning of their relationship!

So, when Haunted was released, I couldn't wait to download it (and might have to get this one in print!)
Lord Justyn and Lady Rebecca are huge stars of the stage. They are beloved as the Phantom and Christine, which they have starred in on Broadway winning raves and devoted phans all over for their performances. Now they have been invited to England to headline the Woman in White musical being filmed there with an all star cast. Even their son, Erik, will have a bit part. 
They arrive and check into their hotel and at once there is a mystery, a woman dressed in white, has left them a welcome basket. Was it a publicity stunt? No one at the hotel seems to know.

They make their way to the set and meet all the other cast members, each famous in their own right, (one particularly stands out, Stephanie Piro, a huge star, nominated for 16 Emmy Awards as a daytime soap Diva, plus she has a way with younger men!) (and also making an appearance as a co-star is another memorable character, Emma Kathryn!)! 
One of their best friends, Frankie, has a part and they are happy to see him, but the Director of the film, Kyle Whelan, is another matter. He is bossy and demanding. He orders his assistant around and bullies anyone who doesn't do as he asks.

This might be a problem, but Rebecca's bigger concern is the way Justyn has been acting. The love of her life has been distant and elusive since their arrival. What could it mean? Was their marriage in trouble? Before this trip, Justyn saved Becca's life by taking another, and he has been plagued by nightmares ever since. Was he blaming her? Maybe Darlene, her mother-in-law, can help her figure things out when she arrives with Erik and their baby daughter Harmony.

Will things improve for this devoted couple? And will they survive the filming, as trouble seems to follow them wherever they go and mysterious things seem to be happening on set. Be sure to grab a copy of Haunted and follow Justyn and Rebecca as they deal with everything this seemingly cursed movie tries to involve them in!

* Heads up, too, Dark Musicals fans, at the end of Haunted, there is a preview of a new series with Erik Patko as the lead. The preview was enough to have me waiting for the whole book, it was that grabby and gripping!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Backstories : "Confessions on the 7:45" by Lisa Unger

This is a keep reading till the end kind of book, which, I confess, I listened to and the narrator  (Vivienne Lehenny) was so good that I went back and forth between listening on my phone and on the computer, so I could keep following the story, no matter what I was doing!

This is the first Lisa Unger book I read/listened to, and it was quite addictive! Who doesn't love a story that starts out on a train? Selena Murphy is a working wife and mother. She has two boys and a handsome, though recently unemployed husband. She also has the world's best nanny, Geneva. That is... until she moved the nanny cam and caught Geneva and her husband in a compromising position. Multiple positions! And she has caught them at it, more than once, while checking in from work.

Wondering how to tackle this situation, she misses her train and catches a later one. The 7:45. Looking for a seat, she sees an empty one next to a beautiful woman. The train has some issues which delays their departure and Selena finds herself chatting with the woman who introduces herself as Martha. After a while, Martha produces some mini bottles of vodka, and after a couple, Martha confesses some of  her troubles. She's been sleeping with her boss. Selena finds herself confiding her problems to Martha, in turn. "Wouldn't it be nice if your problems could just go away?" Martha asks. 

 Once the train starts moving again and eventually the women reach their destinations and depart, Selena never expects to see or hear from Martha again. She finds herself wondering about Martha's seemingly innocent question. When the question becomes a reality, suddenly Selena's perfect life begins to crack open in ways she never expected. And what of Martha? Will we find out more about this mystery woman and her affair with her boss? You'll have to grab a copy (or download one!) of this super twisty, super suspenseful and surprising  tale! I didn't want it to end, it was THAT good! With hints of Patricia Highsmith's (and Hitchcock's) Strangers on a Train, but with a spin all its own, this is one I highly recommend. And if you're busy and don't have a lot of reading time, don't let that stop you! Hoopla is a great source of audiobooks! 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Trouble in Paradise: "The Jumbee" by Pamela Keyes

 Having read a LOT of Phantom based fiction over the years, many reviewed here, I can say that The Jumbee was a very different and fascinating retelling. Set on a West Indian island called Cariba, it centers around a young woman who has come to the island to finish out high school. 

Esti Legard is a talented actress. She is the daughter of the great Shakespearean actor, Alan Legard. He was so well known on stage and screen, that it was hard for her to be an actor in her own right, being forever in his shadow. She had played Juliet in a Public Television production with her father, and he seemed to imply that she didn't live up to his high standards. Afterwards, she began to separate from him, no longer going along to all his events. When he dies after a brief illness, she feels guilty and that she must prove to herself that she can still make it as an actor.

No sooner had she and her mother settled on the Island and Esti started at the Manchicay High School, renowned for its theatre program, than she is witness to a fatal accident. A student told her she'd never make it as Juliet and minutes later, he falls from the stage's catwalk. Questioned by the police, she turns to leave, when it seems as if a voice emanating from the walls is quoting Shakespeare to her. Is she losing her mind?

Not long after she tries out for the lead in Romeo and Juliet, but realizes there is a crew of popular kids who've had the lead roles forever and aren't very welcoming. Despite that, she holds her own and makes a couple of friends who aren't part of the inner circle. She also learns that a boy she knew as a girl back in the states was coming home to Cariba, where his father helped organize talent agents and scouts to come to the school's productions. He has quite a reputation among the Island's girls.

Meanwhile, the voice she heard has spoken to her and she is so taken with it's beauty and mastery of Shakespeare that she agrees to come to the school at night to allow this mysterious entity to coach her. 
Who could this invisible presence be? As I mentioned, this is a very different spin on the Phantom story and one that kept me reading. The characters are colorful and the island dialect seems to resonate from the pages, as does the voice of the mystery Jumbee, or Island ghost. If you are in the mood for a story that will take you on an island journey and give you a "Phantom" you'll remember long after the final page, then give Ms. Keyes' The Jumbee a try!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Good Neighbors: "The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires" by Grady Hendrix

This one 
grabbed me right from the first few sentences. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix is the perfect book to read this time of year or any time, because it's that good and that original!
 Beginning in 1988, Patricia Campbell is a good Southern housewife and mother. She and her equally good housewife friends live in a safe, nobody locks their doors suburban community of Charleston, South Carolina, and belong to a proper book club, where it turns out nobody actually read the classics the host imposed on them. Leaving the final meeting, one of the ladies suggests they read “real” books, the kind that everyone really wants to read, true crime! Everyone enthusiastically takes part, and after months of reading, they’re pretty much experts on the details of what to look for if you were ever in a similar situation to the victims. Still, they feel pretty secure, as they look after the homes and children while their husbands are out earning a living. Or are they as safe as they believe? One night, something shocking happens to Patricia! This Is when the story begins to take some unexpected twists and turns as the characters wake up to the fact that not all is pleasant in Mt. Pleasant.

I loved the author’s style of writing. And this is a fun read with some real scary surprises, I mean, given the title, I expected something, but not the author’s take on “vampires”. It also has aspects of feminism, as these women have to worry about, or answer to their husbands about the every day decisions they make. I highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Persuasion: Of Love and Violence: Tainted Love Book 3 by Kayla Lowe


Spoiler Alert! If you haven't read Kayla Lowe's Tainted Love series from the beginning, don't read any further, because you want to follow the love story of 18 year old Sarah MacKenzie and the man she thought was the answer to her dreams, the much older Bruce, right from the start.

After dealing with her family's disapproval of Bruce, who, as it turned out, was even older than her Dad, Sarah agrees to go with him to Florida, where he was from, to begin a new life. They take an endless bus journey and arrive to find Bruce's buddy, Ron, waiting for them. They are happy to see each other, and Sarah feels a pang of regret at how close she and her cousin Addison used to be. 

Ron seems nice and is friendly to her and she notices he's handicapped, missing one arm and part of a hand, due, she finds out, from a work related accident. He drops them at a motel for the night and the next day, they move into an older apartment building, and Sarah learns, much to her consternation, that there are two bars attached to the hotel, one a hip hop bar and the other, a country bar. So begins Sarah's life in Florida. Would they ever be able to afford to live at the beach, as Bruce had promised?

Her issues with Bruce drinking only increased as he  and she were to spend more and more time at Ron's. Ron's brother, Ken, a creepy sort of character, also lived there. While Ron had a pool and Sarah enjoyed swimming there, she also noticed the guys seemed to drink more when they were together, and smoke like chimneys. They hung out in Ron's garage, and she caught Ken watching her swim and ogling her bikini.  The more time they spent at Ron's, the more money Bruce seemed to spend on drinks and smokes. To justify his drinking, he begins to buy alcoholic drinks for Sarah. More and more she falls into drinking a bit to keep Bruce company. 

Sarah is such a nice girl, pretty and raised to do the right things. Now, here she is, hanging out with men so much older than her, and finding Bruce was more and more possessive of her, fuming whenever another guy looks her way or compliments her. Is this what she signed up for? A year before, she was an  A college student, enjoying all the fun of living with Addison and college life. Will Sarah and Bruce's relationship be all she hoped? Would her family ever accept her decision and the man she abandoned them for? 

Be sure to read Kayla Lowe's addictive Tainted Love Series from the beginning to follow Sarah and Bruce's story. Sarah is a realistic young woman and you can see how she finds Bruce attractive. Of Love and Violence takes us deeper into their relationship. What happens after... we have to wait for the next book to find out!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Heart of Darkness: "Into the Heartless Wood" by Joanna Ruth Meyer

In Into the Heartless Wood Joanna Ruth Meyer has created a world that is magical and horrifying and somehow a world that is completely believable.  It's a world in which the woods are alive and the stars predict the future. It also has one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful love stories I've read in ages. 

 Ms. Meyer draws the reader in from the very first sentence, in which one of a stand of birch trees is brought to life to be the daughter of the Gwydden, who is a kind of  goddess that is all powerful, and merciless, and that is neither woman nor tree and who rules the wood around her. This new daughter is one of her mother's monsters, sirens whose song is so beautiful and enticing, it lures whoever hears it into the forest to be destroyed by these creatures. 

Bordering these woods is a cottage in which resides a young man, Owen, his two year old sister, Awela, and his father, an astronomer who secretly charts the stars for the king of their region. Owen's mother was lost to the wood a year or so before. Devastated by her loss his father has built a wall between the cottage and the woods so his children will be marginally safer. As time passes, the branches begin to reach over the wall.

One day, Owen convinces his father that he could help him by taking the train to the city to file his father's star charts. He had heard warnings that the forest was encroaching the train tracks. Still, things seemed calm until suddenly the train is derailed, passengers flung this way and that, and the song of the sirens surrounds them. He manages to get out of the wreckage to find, to his horror, the tree sirens are murdering the victims of the accident, bodies lying all through the surrounding area.

When a siren comes upon him, something strange happens, her song pinning him to the ground, she stares at him and then tells him to run. She has let him go. And what happens after this gesture is something you will have to read to find out. The Recommender found this to be a book I couldn't put down. I had to stay up late to finish it and I will just warn you that at moments you may find yourself weeping on your kindle or book pages. The Recommender did! 5 stars for this one! Order it, download it or borrow it from your Library. You will not be disappointed! Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

Sometimes, when the Recommender is doing something else, like working on cartoons or painting a room, I get to listen to audiobooks! Recently, I listened to a few really good ones with great narrators that kept you wanting to listen, even if your work was all done.

Such was the case with Heather Gudenkauf's Before She Was Found. The narrator, Brittany Presley,  really became the characters in this riveting story based, loosely, on the Slenderman myth which inspired 2 young girls to stab their friend 19 times to impress this fictional character.

Told from varying viewpoints and through journals and texts that begin by describing a nightmarish late night encounter by the railroad tracks, Before She was Found grabs the reader (or listener!) and immerses them in the lives of these characters, especially those of three twelve year old girls, Violet, the new girl in the town of Pitch, Iowa. Cora, an outcast among her peers, someone who is not good at sports or the other activities the girls in town excel at and with a strict father, and a pretty, popular sister, she spends time writing in her journal and trying to fit in without attracting the notice of her frenemy, Jordyn. Queen of the mean girls, Jordyn is always the first to point out Cora's lack of popularity and loser status. Raised by her grandparents, who live over the bar her grandfather owns, she is often out on her own, running wild, bullying others and getting into trouble.

Violet ends up in Pitch by accident when her mother's car breaks down, so she, her mother and brother end up staying in town, Cora hopes Violet will be her new best friend.They both like to draw and Violet is particularly gifted. Jordyn decided Violet should be her friend and sets out to steal her away, though it sometimes seems to bring them closer together.  Especially when their favorite teacher gives them an assignment on "urban myths". Violet and Cora decide to work together, but the school has a motto of no child left behind, so  to speak... like, if you don't have a place to sit for lunch,  you'll be added to a table so the teacher adds Jordyn to their group.

What happens after that is the core of the story. working together, Jordyn belittles Violet and Cora's ideas and suggests a much more sinister subject. This subject begins to ensnare the girls as they research the back story and make plans that include a sleepover.

This is the first of  Ms. Gudenkauf's books that I've read (or listened to!) and it was excellent. There is a reveal that is a bit surprising but I give nothing away! You will have to read (or listen to!) this story to find out what happens!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

I Spy: "Woman in the Window" by A. J. Finn

Anna Fox lives alone in a large house in a NY Harlem neighborhood with a small park that separates her from the neighbors across the way. She likes a glass of wine, or a few bottles of wine, and spends her days watching classic black and white noir mystery films and spying on her neighbors through a long camera lens. Very "Rear Window". Though instead of a broken leg keeping her housebound, she suffers from crippling agoraphobia.

A former child psychologist, she keeps in touch with her therapist mentor and has home visits from a  a physical therapist who is helping her recover from a mysterious accident and who has become a confidant. She does have a tenant who lives in her basement apartment, and he comes and goes and once in a while helps her out. Other than him and her cat, she really doesn't see anyone else. Her husband and daughter seem to stay in touch only by phone, so when a young teenage boy knocks at her door  with a gift from his mother, she is surprised but intrigued by his precociousness and interest in the movies she watches. After all, she specialized in damaged children, and there seemed to be something this boy was hiding.  He mentioned a strict father. Abuse perhaps?  And then, one afternoon, his mother pays her a visit. They get along and even play chess... and then, she seems to disappear.  Or did she. What did  Anna see through her camera lens? Something so horrible, it couldn't be real, could it? This is a thriller that will keep you up late reading (or listening) as you wonder if Anna is hallucinating or a witness to a crime.

This was another book I listened to while illustrating a book and it kept me listening even after my work for the day was finished. The audio is narrated by Ann Marie Lee who does a great job of bringing these characters to life and keeping the mystery alive to the very end. I have to say, as a long time fan of the movies Mr. Finn describes, he knows his genre! If you haven't seen the movies Ms. Fox watches over and over, you'll be searching for ways to stream them after you finish the book!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Who Do You Love? "Of Love and Family": Tainted Love Saga # 2 by Kayla Lowe


This might contain Spoilers for anyone who hasn't read Ms. Lowe's first book in this captivating series, Of Love and Deception. 

When we last left Sarah, she had helped move her online "Phantom", Bruce, to an apartment close enough for her to visit. While he wasn't quite what she was expecting, he wasn't in his 30's as he claimed in his messages to her, she tried to remember this was the man who knew her better than anyone. So she thought.

When he turned out to be in his 50's, a divorced ex-con with kids not much younger than her, she still tried to justify all the deceit, despite her parent's objections. Packing her bags and moving out while they were at work, she left them a note, and took a taxi to the man who seemed to love her more than anything! Just like the Phantom loved Christine!

Of Love and Family begins with Sarah spending her first night in Bruce's apartment, where he behaves like a gentleman and sleeps on sofa cushions letting her have the bed. This is the start of her new life. Or is it? She wasn't quite ready to give up her parents and brother and her best friend, her cousin, Addison. She was someone who loved being part of her family and all the relatives and celebrations and holidays that went along with that.  She finds herself torn between the contempt her parents have for Bruce and her perhaps misguided love for a man even older than her father. Is Bruce going to be the answer to her dreams? 

You'll have to find out for yourself  in this compelling story of a young woman who seemed to have everything going for her and gave it up for love.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Deja Vu: "You Again," by Debra Jo Immergut

Abigail Willard is heading home from work one rainy night when she sees something that makes her leave the comfort of her taxi and leap over puddles into the downpour. She stands, rain soaked, as she watches a young woman emerge from a doorway. That young woman is Abby, the Abby she used to be... 20 or so years ago.
Ms. Immergut immediately grabs the reader and immerses them in this impossible dual life. Can two Abbys coexist in the same world? The Abby of today works as a graphic artist for a pharmaceutical company. Once she was an artist, one that was recognized for her unique understanding of color and design. She had passion and believed in herself . Now, that dream seems to belong to the past. To the other Abby.
 The 46 year old Abby is also a wife, married to another artist, a man she met at art school, who once had a promising career as a sculptor.  Together they have two challenging teenage sons. Not sure if what she has seen is a hallucination, a dream or a vision... she begins to search for her younger self at the old haunts she frequented back when she was first getting to know the city. There is so much she would tell this version of  herself. Will she get the chance?

Abby's story is interspersed with documents and texts and notes made by therapists and doctors. Something has happened or will happen or might happen to Abigail as she tries to make sense of the visions and also deal with her older son's questionable new interests and her midlife questioning of her marriage and choices.

Not giving too much away, let me just say I found Abby to be a heartbreakingly believable character, especially from the viewpoint of those of us making a living in the arts. As you enter the world that these Abbys inhabit and lose yourself in their story, there are surprises in store and mysteries, both mystical and medical.  I worried for these Abbys and had to stay up late so I could find out everything that happens! This is a must read for anyone who loves the sort of book that will have you thinking about it long after that final page is turned. I loved this one, a 5 star Militant Recommendation! Thank you to Edelweiss for the DRC!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Walk on the Wild Side: "How to Be Human” by Patricia Cocozza

How to Be Human by Patricia Cocozza begins with a woman finding a baby on the doorstep of the cottage where she lives, and from there develops into the growing relationship between this woman, Mary, and a fox she sees in her garden, which backs a woodsy area. 

Mary is a young divorced woman who got to keep the house in her divorce, and although relieved to be free of her controlling husband, a sense of loneliness now permeates her life.  The fox becomes an obsession for her and a menace to her neighbors. 

This fox is not only a wild creature but seems to sense what Mary needs, besides its  friendship. It begins to shower her with gifts. Gifts which Mary at first finds puzzling but later begins to look forward to. These tokens must mean something. Is this fox, her fox, trying to tell her something?

 Meanwhile, around her, her neighbors visit and squabble and complain. Her ex-husband seems to be lurking in the neighborhood. Her job is a trial and boring. More and more she longs to be done with everything and just spend quiet evenings in her yard waiting for the fox to appear. As she and the fox become closer you get the fox’s viewpoint for some of the events that occur.

What happens in this beautifully written story unfolds slowly and you begin to see how this charming, clever creature would captivate Mary, and the reader and the Militant Recommender, as well! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Our house is a very, very, very fine house: "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi, a young man, and maybe one of only two people in the world, is our narrator and guide into one of the most unusual habitats ever created. His home is a house so big it contains an ocean, with its tides that come and go and affect the way he lives. This impossible house is filled with hundreds of rooms and in each of these rooms are tier upon tier of marble and stone statues.

These statues depict everything from a huge gorilla to a woman carrying a beehive, to a man removing a thorn from a child's foot to a room of Minotaurs. They are so lovingly described and in such detail you can picture each and every one as Piranesi makes his rounds, writes in his journals, cares for several skeletons and fishes in a sunken lake. It seems to Piranesi that he has always been here. There may have been a before the House but it is a vague memory that seems to be just out of reach. It doesn't trouble him as the House provides him with all that he needs.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, Piranesi meets with "the Other", his friend and mentor of sorts. The Other is an older gentleman with a trim beard and always well dressed and looking very dapper despite the chill and damp and the constant presence of the ocean.Sometimes he is so deep in thought, he becomes annoyed with Piranesi, other times he encourages his feedback.

The Other doesn't seem to love the House and its contents as Piranesi does. And where does he go the other days of the week? Piranesi is content living among the statues and the birds who often nest amidst these giant beings. Is there more to this world of sea and stone? Where do the birds come from or go to?  I will say no more! You will have to uncover these mysteries of the House for yourself!

This is a beautifully written book by the brilliant and imaginative Susanna Clarke who gave us the masterpiece Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. She has a unique ability to create a world you totally believe in and while completely different than Jonathan Strange it is no less magical!  Highly recommended! Thank you to Edelweiss for allowing me the pleasure of reading an advance DRC!!!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Don't You Forget About Me: "The Memory Police" by Yoko Ogawa.

Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police is set in an unstated time on an unnamed island, the population of which live in fear under the supervision of the Memory Police. Under their martial law, anything at any time can be disappeared.These disappearances take many forms, from people to everyday objects to birds and flowers.

The narrator is a young woman, an author of novels that reflect her life and the world she’s grown up in. She lives alone in her parents home, both of whom have passed on. Her mother, a sculptor, was summoned by the Memory Police, and died soon after. Her best friend is an old man who lives on a rusting boat in the harbor. Other than him, her closest relationship is with R. her editor.

The author makes you care for these three characters and the comfort they find in one another despite the bleak and disturbing circumstances in which they live and the ever present menace of the Memory Police that might break down your door and take you away in the middle of the night or on a regular afternoon with everyone watching.

This was a really dark book, even for me! But I couldn’t put it down, either, because I had to know how things turned out. It has elements of 1984, as far as the Memory Police, themselves, and the self enforced brain washing of memories deemed dangerous for the state.

  Simple Minds say it best via the miracle of YouTube!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Keeping Promises: "The Night Tiger" by Yangsze Choo

11 year old Ren is a houseboy in the home of an old ex-patriot doctor and has made the dying man a promise. In 49 days, Ren must find his master's missing finger. And bury it in his grave. If he does not succeed... his master's soul would be doomed to walk the earth. Set in 1930's Malaya, the Night Tiger sweeps you away to another time and an exotic place filled with the beliefs and superstitions of the people and brought to vivid life by the author.
Ren's search is not the only mystery in this intriguing story. It is also the story of Ji Lin, a beautiful girl and the daughter of a lovely yet weak widow mother who had remarried a successful but critical business man. He brings to the marriage a son, Shin, devastatingly handsome, even as a boy. Ji Lin and Shin become close as children but when they are older, Shin leaves home and Jin Li begins a double life, working at a dress shop by day and as a dance hall girl called Louise by night.
One night, a dance hall customer is being too familiar and by accident she comes into possession of a glass vial containing an odd object. What could it be?
How will all these characters and their lives and secrets intersect?
The Night Tiger will ensnare you in these and other mysterious happenings and make you fall in love with Ren and the other unforgettable characters in this entrancing tale. Yangsze Choo is a remarkable writer and once you've read this one, don't miss her debut work The Ghost Bride! You'll be looking forward to whatever she has in store for us in the future! Very highly recommended!
*I also fell in love with the book cover. Simply exquisite!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Dream Lover: "The Ghost Bride" by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride, the gorgeous debut novel by Yangsze Choo, is set in Malaya in the 1890s. It is the story of a young girl, Li Lan living with her scholarly but opium addicted father and Amah, a servant who is more like a nanny. Her mother was lost to a smallpox epidemic that also left her father badly scarred.

 Her father's fortunes are in decline, so, one day after visiting with a wealthy acquaintance, he makes a proposal to his daughter. The wealthy family's only son had died, and they would like Li Lan to marry the dead son and be his ghost bride. The upside is she would live very well. The down side, being married to a dead guy. 
Does she give in to this family's wishes? No spoilers here!

This book took turns I didn't expect and the author creates a dream world and a spirit world that become more and more believable as the story progresses. She also created one of the most unique and captivating leading men who will be introduced to us bit by bit until he becomes one of the most memorable fictional presences I can recall in a long time. He will take your heart unless it is made of stone... and while Li Lang tries to deal with the ghostly bridegroom as he haunts her dreams and makes choices that take her on an unexpected journey, this character becomes central to her quest.

I absolutely adore Ms. Choo's work. I read the Night Tiger first and then sought out The Ghost Bride. She is a masterful storyteller and brings the reader right into her atmospheric Malayan setting with its jungles and city landscapes and, in this case, otherworldly settings, and the characters that populate them. 
If you are looking for something that will keep you engaged and reading till the end and that makes you want to go back and reread it so you can stay in that fictional world, then be sure to read the Ghost Bride. I'll be finishing my Night Tiger review shortly, which I also highly recommend! 5 shiny gold stars!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Out of Print but Not Forgotten: "Princess Pamela" by Ray Russell

I have a fabulous co-worker (Katherine!) at the library where I work who told me about a book she read years before and that she used to check out of the library, in the town she lived in at the time, and reread every so often. She has pretty similar taste to mine, so, I searched for that book... and found not one copy, but two, so I was able to give her her own copy! That re-readable book is Princess Pamela by Ray Russell.

It is written in the form of a diary, the diary written by the title's namesake, Pamela Summerfield, Princess being her father's pet name for her as she was born on the same day as Princess Victoria. Pamela is a smart and observant diarist. From the very beginning she takes note of all the news and gossip that swirls around her and her well-off family. Her father owns a brewery, her mother keeps their home in order, managing the staff and acting as a hostess for what are called Saturdays at home, a time when certain friends or family are invited to call. She also has a beloved older sister who has married and moved away, and a brother in college studying for "holy orders" as a divinity student being the grandson of a bishop, his mother's father.

Pamela begins  her diary in 1837. It  is filled with the details of her daily life, descriptions of her family and, it is obvious from the reactions of those around her,  that she, herself,  is a lovely young woman of almost 18. She enchants potential suitors with her wit and intelligence, suitors of which we will learn more as we follow her diary through the months and years.

Pamela's voice is captivating and it is remarkable that the actual author of the book is a man who so  believably captured the innermost thoughts, fears and desires of  a young woman.  We, ourselves, are observers to the plights and passions of these characters, especially Pamela's. Her curiosity regarding the details of these passions often leads her to pester her worldly French hairdresser for advice which, at times, she is reluctant to give.

Princess Pamela is also very informative about the social issues and reforms of that time period, taking note of child labor and toxic food additives among the events and occurrences noted, making this a historical novel as well as a "diary". It is a book that certainly deserves to be remembered and one that can be read and re-read to savor all the details. It seems to be out of print, but used copies are available on both Amazon and ebay and well worth the effort of seeking it out.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Worth Every Penny: "The Lady and the Highwayman" by Sarah M. Eden

Elizabeth Black, a charming and beautiful young woman, is Headmistress of a school for girls. She is also the author of Silver Fork novels that appeal to proper society women. On the side, though, she is the secret author of  a Penny Dreadful series. Books that appeal to a much wider, and often lower class audience of readers. She writes these using a male pseudonym, Charles King, and this series is wildly popular.
So popular, that the reigning king of the Penny Dreadfuls, Fletcher Walker, is becoming more than a little alarmed. The reason for this worry is that he and a group of other Penny Dreadful authors belong to a secret society and one that uses its profits to do good. That is, to help those unfortunate urchins who live on the streets of London and face hardships and cruelty at every turn.
How can Fletcher, a former urchin, himself,  and his colleagues, keep the money coming in when  this Mr. King's popularity threatens to siphon off a good deal of that funding?
The hunt is on to find this mysterious Mr. King and find out his intentions. After being introduced to Miss Black at an event, Fletcher decides to enlist her help in finding Mr. King, of course, quite unaware that this enchanting, witty young woman is the very person he is seeking! What a dilemma! Ms. Eden has written a book that is so much fun and filled with such memorable characters, both our protagonists AND the characters they have created, as we also get the works of Mr. King and Mr. Walker interspersed with the stories of their authors.
I absolutely loved this book and these wonderfully appealing characters and their Victorian London milieu. There is romance! Mystery! And urchins! What could be better? Highly recommended for anyone looking for something enjoyably different. Or anyone that loves a good story!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Until Love Blooms Again: "The Stars May Rise and Fall" by Estella Mirai

 Exquisitely written, Ms. Mirai's gorgeous book The Stars May Rise and Fall draws us into the  world of a Japanese Glam/Metal style rock band, playing small clubs, hoping for their next big break.
Teru has been around bands and the drummer for La Rose Verboten for long enough that he has seen younger, newer bands appear and get record deals overnight while they struggle on. Between gigs, Teru works part time in a convenience store to make ends meet and afford his tiny apartment.  One night, he is surprised to find a note in the dressing room while preparing for a show. Someone had left him a card saying "I can help you. Call Me." and a phone number. At first, he thinks it's a prank, maybe one of his band members? None seem to know anything about it. Later, alone in his room, unable to sleep, he keeps thinking of the card. Finally, building up his courage he dials. Then after a couple of rings, he hangs up, feeling uneasy. Not minutes later, it rings. A text appears. "I heard you sing" it says. Teru explains that he is the drummer, he doesn't sing. Then the phone rings again, and a sensual male voice speaks, telling Teru he has a beautiful voice. That he heard him singing in the dressing room. That he can help him become a better singer. He asks Teru to meet with him. At his apartment. He explains it is difficult for him to get out.

Puzzled, Teru agrees, and a couple of days later he finds himself outside the apartment of the man who was going to change his life in more ways than he expects. This man, Rei, appears to be handicapped. He wears a silver mask covering one side of his face, the other side is beautiful. He also wears a blue wig. He has other physical disabilities, but they don't diminish his talent. He tells Teru he is writing the band's new break-out single.

From this first meeting, The Stars May Rise and Fall becomes a dreamy, swoony love story. A story, not just of Teru's blossoming, all encompassing love for  Rei, but about Rei's past, and his lost love and the hopeful love of a young woman for Teru.  It is a story of heartbreak, and persevering in spite of it. And all around are the clubs, and bands and the fans who can help make or break a band.

Partly, this is a very different retelling of Phantom of the Opera, and it successfully gives us the broken yet brilliant Phantom figure in Rei. This is a book that will stay with you long after you finish. The characters are so real you can hear their music as you read the words. Teru and Rei's love story, too, is one that will resonate with you. What happens between these two and the others in the band and on the sidelines is something you will need to discover for yourself . Available in print and as an ebook. I loved this one so much, I bought both!