Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Lost Lake
by Sarah Addison Allen

The first time Eby saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard.  Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.

That was half a lifetime ago.  Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby's past.  Her husband, George, is long passed.  Most of her demanding extended family are gone.  All that's left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.

It's a lot, but it's not enough to keep Eby from calling this her final summer at the lake, and relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand.  Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.

Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness and heartbreak and loss.  Now she's all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope, too, thanks to her resilient daughter, Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward.  Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer. . . and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.

One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren't sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended.  Can they find what they need before it's too late?

At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places. 

My Thoughts:  I loved this book from the cover to the story line.  For me, one look at the cover evoked thoughts of the south and the mystery and magic that is a part of of good  Southern fiction.  The main characters, Kate and her daughter Devin, were very sad in the beginning, as Kate's husband had died.  She had been walking around in a fog for a year, but when she came across an old postcard from Lost Lake something in her woke up.  Without telling her mother-in-law, who had basically been controlling her life for the last year, she packed up her daughter Devin for a road trip.  

Eby, Kate's aunt, was planning on this to be her last summer of running Lost Lake.  Her husband had passed away and many things were dilapidated and in need of repair.  When Kate shows up after so many years had passed, it starts to bring back old memories.  Some of Eby's summer regulars start to show up and together they determine to stop Eby from selling out to a real estate mogul who wants to turn the area into a resort.  

There are some magical, mystical elements to the story - like the alligator that speaks to Devin and only she seems able to see.   He wants her to find a box that he claims will save them and Lost Lake.  Devin herself is a little magical, as only a child can be, with her wise-beyond-her-years attitude and flair for dressing.  Kate and Wes' relationship is also magical - the first boy she ever had feelings for and almost kissed - meeting him again at Lost Lake.

Being at Lost Lake was almost as if time had stood still - the cabins, the lake, the path through the woods.  Makes me remember a lake we would go swimming at when I was a kid, that still holds a little magic in the memories when we go back today. 

Devin looked out over the water.  They didn't look like knees.  They didn't even look like roots.  They looked like the ancient spires of Gothic buildings sticking out of the top of the water, like there was a church under the lake and she and Bulahdeen could only see the top of it. They were clustered in a section close to the bank, no more than a foot or so out of the water.  She got as close to the edge as possible and looked down.  The water moved slightly, and she thought for a moment that she saw a flash of something electric blue at the bottom.  But, then again, the water was so murky that it was hard to tell just where the bottom was.  She didn't see any evidence that the alligator had been here, or that whatever it was he might want her to find was hidden anywhere.  She even put her hand over her good eye and looked around.   (p175, Lost Lake)

I haven't read anything else by Sarah Addison Allen, but Garden Spells has been on my TBR list forever.  I really must read some more of her work as I enjoyed this one immensely.

Purchase Links:

About the author: New York Times Bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction -- a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility.

Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Allen grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature -- because, as she puts it, "I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate." 

After graduation, Allen began writing seriously. Her big break occurred in 2007 with the publication of her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, a modern-day fairy tale about an enchanted apple tree and the family of North Carolina women who tend it. Booklist called Allen's accomplished debut "spellbindingly charming." The novel became a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, and then a New York Times Bestseller.

Allen continues to serve heaping helpings of the fantastic and the familiar in fiction she describes as "Southern-fried magic realism." Clearly, it's a recipe readers are happy to eat up as fast as she can dish it out.

Her published books to date are: Garden Spells (2007), The Sugar Queen (2008), The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010), The Peach Keeper (2011) and Lost Lake (2014). (from Goodreads)

Author Links:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Writing

I am having trouble sitting down to write reviews.  I started back to college 2 weeks ago (after being out of school for 15+ years) and am taking a required English class.  I have been struggling with the first writing assignment (due tomorrow) and because of that have not been sitting down to write anything!   I believe that I have finally wrapped up that writing assignment (whew) so hope to get caught up on reviews now.  I apologize if I have promised a review and missed my posting date.  Hopefully things will start to flow again!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Autumn in Carthage by Christopher Zenos

Autumn in Carthage
by Christopher Zenos

Nathan Price is a college professor with crippling impairments, seeking escape from his prison of necessity.  One day, in a package of seventeenth-century documents from Salem Village, he stumbles across a letter by his best friend, Jamie, who had disappeared six months before.  The document is dated 1692 -- the height of the Witch Trials.  The only potential lead: a single mention of Carthage, a tiny town in the Wisconsin northern highland.

The mystery catapults Nathan from Chicago to the Wisconsin wilderness.  There, he meets Alanna, heir to an astonishing Mittel-European legacy of power and sacrifice.  In her, and in the gentle townsfolk of Carthage, Nathan finds the refuge for which he has long yearned.  But Simon, the town elder, is driven by demons of his own, and may well be entangled in Jamie's disappearance and that of several Carthaginians, As darkness stretches toward Alanna, Nathan may have no choice but to risk it all. . .

Moving from the grimness of Chicago's South Side to the Wisconsin hinterlands to seventeenth-century Salem, this is a story of love, of sacrifice, of terrible passions -- and of two wounded souls quietly reaching for the deep peace of sanctuary.  

My Thoughts: I find that the more I enjoy the book, the harder it is to write the review - and this book falls into that category.  I really liked Nathan.  He was an accomplished professor, seemed to be well-liked by his peers and his students, but was still flawed with some unnamed mental disorder.  Rather than diminishing his capabilities though, I thought this gave him a greater understanding as to the differences in people and while it may not have made him more accepting, it gave him a different viewpoint.  I loved this passage in one of the earlier chapters, upon overhearing a group of young men discussing a date who had claimed she was bipolar - and laughing about the world being full of crazies.
We are not less than you, you cowardly little snot. We are more than you. We live every day in a world made by and for you, with burdens that would bring you to your knees -- and still manage to outperform you. (p18)
So anyway, Nathan travels to Carthage, Wisconsin in search of his friend Jamie.  He is not sure what he is looking for and comes upon a town while friendly enough, seems to be harboring secrets and mysteries at every turn.  In Alanna he finds a kindred spirit, and is almost afraid to hope that they might have a future together.  She slowly lets him in on the town's big secret, which is that they are time travelers.  

The author has written this book in such a way, as time travel does not seem farfetched at all, but just an alternate life style.  It was not "science fictiony" at all and fit well with the demeanor of the community and the location.  While Carthage seemed like any number of other small communities you might find in the midwest, there were subtle differences that made you realize it was special, wealthy.  The author was so descriptive in telling about Carthage and the surrounding countryside, that I had to look online to see if a Carthage, Wisconsin really existed. (It does not.)

You meet a lot of characters early on in the book, and if you don't pay attention to the chapter subtitles, you might become confused as to who is narrating. The narrators all bring their own flavor to the story, as they should with their different viewpoints.  

I liked the tie-in of Salem and the witch trials.  If Carthaginians and their abilities were discovered, people might very well treat them as they did the so-called witches in Salem. Salem was a very misunderstood community, but there were a few who took in the misplaced Carthaginians, with their funny dress and accent, and helped them remain as inconspicuous as possible.  

The novel wrapped things up in the end, very satisfactorily for me, and I am very glad that I read this book. I wonder if there are any other books in the works regarding escapades of other time travelers in this community. 

~I received a complimentary copy of Autumn in Carthage from Rebecca at The Cadence Group in exchange for my unbiased review.~

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett

The Hollow Ground
by Natalie S. Harnett

Inspired by the real-life deadly coal mine fires in now-infamous Centralia, Pennsylvania, and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, THE HOLLOW GROUND  is an extraordinary debut novel with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place.  Already being compared to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill a Mockingbird, this evocative story about family and the nature of love between a parent and child introduces a stunning and powerful new voice in literary fiction.

It’s 1961, and the ground is burning beneath eleven-year-old Brigid Howley’s feet.  The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp.  Tragedy, though, is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the “curse” laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires, a secret society of Irish and Irish-American coal miners.  But the weight of this legacy now rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft.  In the aftermath, decades’ old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Filled with compelling characters, rich prose, engrossing historical detail, and an extraordinary sense of time and place, THE HOLLOW GROUND is exquisitely crafted and tells an unforgettable story that is certain to move readers. 

My thoughts: Brigid is the narrator of this story, set against the backdrop of the Appalachian coal mine fires of the 1960's.  I had never heard of these fires and found them fascinating, devastating and unbelievable. Brigid tells how her Aunt's house, where they had been living, becomes uninhabitable as the fire nears and literally hollows out the ground beneath their feet. Her family is forced to move to a nearby town and move in with their Grandma and Grandpa.  The fires are raging beneath this town as well.  

I liked Brigid as a narrator.  She didn't sugar coat anything and she also did not feel sorry for herself or her circumstances.  Her family is very dysfunctional and she if basically raising herself.  As secrets continue to be revealed, including the answers to a murder mystery, what she thought she knew about her family also continues to change. 

I really liked this book.  The background was such a stark contrast to the voice of Brigid.  I read this book awhile ago and the story has really stayed with me.  This was a debut book for Natalie Harnett and I look forward to seeing what else she writes in the future.

"Auntie?" I shouted through the sliver of screen visible where the window was open.  There was no answer.  The flecks of snow had thickened to flakes that had a tinge of yellow to them.  The color was odd and pretty all at once and I couldn't decide if it reminded me of something sick or of something lit up just barely by sun.  Dying light, I decided, remembering a poem Auntie had read to me.  And then I got afraid. (The Hollow Ground, p20)

~I received a complimentary copy of The Hollow Ground from Get Red PR and Net Galley in exchange for my unbiased review.~

Purchase Links:

About the author:  NATALIE S. HARNETT is an MFA graduate of Columbia. She has been awarded an Edward Albee Fellowship, a Summer Literary Seminars Fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Writer’s Grant, and was a finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Fiction. Harnett has been published in The New York Times, The Madison Review and The MacGuffin. She lives on Long Island with her husband and toddler. 

Author Links:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

And Yet Another Loss

Some of you may remember that we just had our dog, Boomer, put down 10 days ago.  This morning I went upstairs to my bedroom and found our cat, Frankie, had passed away.  We got her back in 2000 when she was about a year old.  She was a very gentle cat, especially when my son was a toddler.  He could lay on her and pull her around by her tail and she would just let him.  She had a very distinctive meow and beautiful green eyes.  Frankie - you will also be missed. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cover Reveal: A Beauty so Beastly by RaShelle Workman (Giveaway)

A Beauty so Beastly
by RaShelle Workman

Genre: Fractured Fairy Tale
Book 1 in the Beastly Series
Release date: July 3, 2014

“For your vanity, your cruelty, and your cold unfeeling heart, a curse I leave upon you . . .”

What happens if the beauty is also the beast?

The stunning Beatrice Cavanaugh is considered American royalty. She has everything except the ability to love. Cursed on her eighteenth birthday, she becomes more beastly than ever, having a newfound craving for raw meat, and an undeniable yearning for the night. Bitterness is her only companion.

After accusing a maid of stealing, a disgustingly kind and exquisitely handsome guy named Adam shows up asking Beatrice to drop the charges against his mother.

Infuriated by his goodness, Beatrice vows to break him. Destroy him. Make him hurt the way she hurts. So she agrees. On one condition: Adam must take his mother’s place as a servant in the mansion. 

Because Beatrice won’t stop until he’s more beastly than she is.

Special Note: A BEAUTY SO BEASLTY will be available for 99 cents until its release date on July 3rd! Then it'll go up to $2.99. So pre-order now!

About the author: RaShelle Workman is an international bestselling author. She writes fractured fairytales with bite and young adult science fiction that's out of this world. RaShelle likes cherry pie, movies, family adventures, and chocolate. If you want to get on her good side, send chocolate. RaShelle's sold more than 500,000 copies of her books worldwide. Sleeping Roses, Exiled, Beguiled, and Dovetailed have foreign rights contracts with a Turkish publisher. 

Her books include:

Sleeping Roses

Blood and Snow (1-12)

The Cindy Chronicles

Vampire Lies (Blood and Snow Season 2)

Short stories:

Rose, Undercover

Cindy Witch

The Hunter's Tale

After the Kiss
Zaren's Travels

Author Links: Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Blog

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