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Dec 15, 2014

Six Years Later

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 2014 marks the sixth anniversary since I first posted here on blogger. Six years is a very long time, especially when you consider my son is now seven. I really enjoyed the first few years of blogging and reviewing for others until it seemed like all of a sudden there were a huge glut of other bloggers and then bloggers started getting roped into blog tours with rules and obligations and just crappy attitudes from lots of folks who didn't like anything from a five star review to a one star review. Then bloggers turned against bloggers and formed cliques against other cliques and egads- just run for the hills.

Six years of blogging where there were those folks who sorta live kinda close and I'm all for maybe meeting up and hanging out, yo! But I don't drink wine, and I just never was that outgoing person who could just meet someone from the internet. My husband would kill me before the internet person would get a chance to. I'm just not a clubber no matter which connotation you take it.

I have seen online bloggy friends come and go, some with hard feelings and some more just like "I'll like your status update on Facebook but that's it for me".  I can't say I have much of a following here as things really have quieted down on the blog front. I don't remember the last time I got a comment. I think I'll turn commenting off to make myself feel better.

But hey six years! It's been a wild ride for me, as I really have learned a lot of useless information about things from the UK from five hundred years ago. I have also seen people fight about a stupid little historical fact on Facebook/Goodreads. Grow up and get a grip.

I actually stopped wanting to review historical fiction because there would be people out there who would exclaim "You actually liked that when it was fiction and they made that part up about ___ and ____???! How dare you, you evil reader!!"

I went from Tudor Fanatic to Tudor Pee U Icky I hate the Tudors and then I was like, "OH I LOVE the Wars of the Roses!" and then I was like "oh, Regency how Quaint!" and then I was like, "oh look, a Book! Must Buy!" and then "Oh, look a Book! Must Buy!" & "oh look, a Book! Must Buy!" and then "Oh, look a Book! Must Buy!"  and then I acquired my own library, and my own reading room, and my bedroom also looks like a mini library and then I realize geez, I've had some unread ARC's for about five years. (SO sorry, y'all!).. and then I'm like "Medieval?" eh can't really get into it so let's go Christian fiction and hell yeah I loved that for a year and then boom I switched professions and dropped off the face of the earth (or internet) and thousand of books are literally collecting dust as I type.

And then I am like awww I lurrvve my new church! let's sign up to do this! and that! oh okay, if you say so, I guess I'll do that, too! and then my daughter's Girl Scout Troop needs an assistant leader because no one else is left in the list of troop moms to do it, so Crap you Are So Screwed and why the f did you want to be a PTA mom, really??

And now I'm like, "bed... must sleep."

I miss reading. So when I do read - it's when I want to tune everyone out and I don't really give a crap about obtaining an education on Richard III anymore and V.C. Andrews is just magnificent for this exhausted brain.

I read every now and then and sometimes I will post a review if I get a large cup of coffee, pray to the wireless connection gods and try to get blogger to function on the old decrepit laptop.

So yeah. Maybe I'll see you here, but most likely not. It's okay if you're not around here, because I haven't had time to blog surf myself over there and I've missed your blogs-- if you are even posting out there anymore?! I'm out of the loop, man! (Same old story, different decade!)

I just felt like I owed my sad little blog a little Happy Anniversary post, since it was such a good friend to me for quite awhile. Happy Sixth Birthday, Burton Book Review!!!

Dec 12, 2014

Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger prequel) by V.C. Andrews

Friday, December 12, 2014
If you haven't read the prequel then you're totally missing the point!

Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger prequel) by V.C. Andrews
Pocket Books, first published 1987
Personal copy/read for pleasure

Read my other V.C. Andrews reviews

Dollanganger Series:
Flowers in The Attic
Petals on the Wind
If There Be Thorns
Seeds of Yesterday
Garden of Shadows (prequel)

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth (October 2014; ghostwritten)
Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger (January 2015; ghostwritten)

Before terror flowered in the attic there was a young girl. An innocent, hopeful girl... When young Olivia arrives at Foxworth Hall, she thinks her marriage to handsome Malcolm will bring the joy she has longed for. But in the gloomy mansion filled with festering desires and forbidden passions, a stain of jealous obsession begins to spread—an evil that will threaten her children, two charming boys and one very special, beautiful girl. For within the halls of this cursed house a shocking secret lives. A secret that will taint the Foxworth family for generations to come...

Recent posts have comprised of my V.C. Andrews reviews of both new and old releases, and this one is an old release that I never had the pleasure of reading. I cannot imagine why I didn't read it - perhaps I was turned off by the "prequel" part since I was in my teens and I had a high opinion of myself and what I felt was worthwhile. I have a feeling that I had a misconception that I knew everything there was to know about those kids who looked like Dresden doll angels as they were locked up at the Foxworth Mansion. I probably thought I didn't like that crazy old coot of a Grandma that Olivia was, and didn't want to know anything about her.

Garden of Shadows is all about Olivia Foxworth and her sad life as a wife to Malcolm Foxworth. More crazy weirdo shenanigans await readers with Olivia's story - and there is indeed a very intriguing secret that I had no idea about which pretty much floored me! It all really comes together now and puts everything into perspective as we see what brought Olivia to the point of locking grandchildren up in her attic. And we get to see Corrine as she grows up, and her brothers too. Olivia's character is a lot of matter-of-fact and definitely not a lot of sympathy can be derived, but in some ways the reader at least gets to see why Olivia does what she does.

Remember Joel from Seeds of Yesterday? Only now was I able to connect the dots. Melodramatic twists that even I didn't expect as we learn more about Garland Foxworth and his first wife who was Malcolm's runaway mother, and then we learn more Malcolm's beautiful stepmother Alicia. The Swan Room and the Attic are all key rooms in the story, and Olivia doesn't disappoint with her stern observance over every minor detail and her love for her children. Her cousin John Amos appears as Olivia's butler when she needs him most and later we see where the religious fervor all began, but most importantly: why.

When we find out why, we actually can sorta understand the reason behind the melodramatics that led to locking children in an attic for three years. Sorta. But all that stuff that turns people off from V.C. Andrews books like incest, abuse, making the bible look bad, peeking in on people having sex; this insanity is only for a certain few of us looking for that perfect escape from accounting.

Yes indeed, this is the perfect book for when you're ignoring the kids, the dogs, the husband, but not the cat. You mustn't ignore the cat.

Nov 30, 2014

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth by V.C. Andrews

Sunday, November 30, 2014
Christopher’s Diary…For those who liked the Dollanganger series…

Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth by V.C. Andrews
Pocket Books Paperback; October 28, 2014; ISBN: 9781476790589 $7.99
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

Read my other V.C. Andrews reviews

Jealousy, tragedy, survival, and revenge—the discovery of Christopher’s diary in the ruins of Foxworth Hall brings new secrets of the Dollanganger family to light and obsesses a new generation. With Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind both now major Lifetime TV events, this first new addition to the Dollanganger story in nearly thirty years is a timely look at the events in the attic—from teenage Christopher’s point of view.

Christopher Dollanganger was fourteen when he and his younger siblings—Cathy and the twins, Cory and Carrie—were locked away in the attic of Foxworth Hall, prisoners of their mother’s greedy inheritance scheme. For three long years he kept hope alive for the sake of the others. But the shocking truth about how their ordeal affected him was always kept hidden—until now. 

Seventeen-year-old Kristin Masterwood is thrilled when her father’s construction company is hired to inspect the Foxworth property for a prospective buyer. The once grand Southern mansion still sparks legends and half-truths about the four innocent Dollanganger children, even all these decades later. Foxworth holds a special fascination for Kristin, who was too young when her mother died to learn much about her distant blood tie to the notorious family.

Accompanying her dad to the “forbidden territory,” they find a leather-bound book, its yellowed pages filled with the neat script of Christopher Dollanganger himself. Her father grows increasingly uneasy about her reading it, but as she devours the teen’s story page by page, his shattering account of temptation, heartache, courage, and betrayal overtakes Kristin’s every thought. And soon her obsession with the doomed boy crosses a dangerous line…

(Read an excerpt here)

I am one of those age forty-something readers that remember the drama and the wicked horror of the original Flowers in The Attic series when the books had first caused a sensation in the eighties. The Real Virginia Andrews had a way with words that made this once-a-teenager swoon over her next published book. She became such a success that long after her death in 1986 a ghost writer still makes money off of her iconic name. The tone may be the same but it is inevitable that there are only whispers of the passion that the original author of the series had infused into her plots.

I had recently re-read the series which goes as follows: Flowers In the Attic, Petals on The Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and I am now just beginning Garden of Shadows, which is a sort of pre-quel to the series (I also re-read My Sweet Audrina, a stand alone novel that was just as juicy fun as the novels of the Foxworths). These were all titles that were written by the original author, and almost thirty years later Andrew Neiderman brings us the Dollanganger series with the new releases of Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth, and coming in early 2015, Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger.

Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth is set in a later time long after the children of the attic are gone. We can only revisit them through Christopher's diary as Kristin Masterwood discovers the diary at the ruins of Foxworth Hall. While the synopsis hints at amazing secrets coming to life, we as the reader are not getting anything new. But Kristin is! Apparently, no one really knew what was going on at Foxworth Hall though the reader knew the secrets firsthand through the original books. Yet when Kristin finds the diary, she really did not have a good grip on what really went on behind the doors of Foxworth Hall before the two fires had finally destroyed the ancestral home. All that anyone in the community knew was that crazy Bart went off to bang the bible somewhere else. The rest were all theories and gossip about children in an attic but Kristin would like to know more since she knows her deceased mother was somehow a distant cousin.

The distant relative theme was something that could have come up as major suspenseful, but instead it become more of a mantra getting thrown out there for no effect but to annoy. If we are seriously talking fifty years later, the math doesn't really add up if you think hard about it. The storyline was all about Kristin and her current relationships and how "oh no- I should study to be valedictorian but I can't because Christopher's diary is calling my name." Kristin develops an odd relationship with a boy and the reader gets to hear all about how Kristin feels about her teen life and how her modern life would relate to Christopher's and Cathy's. As a new character to the series, Kristin's traits can turn off readers as she is obsessive but otherwise seemingly perfect; plus the narrative would go off into la-la land while Kristin's dad was talking to her by having a long musing about Christopher's and Cathy's feelings, and then going back into the current event at hand which got a bit old.

The next book will hopefully put a bit of closure on this first installment in the Dollanganger series, as the first ends with a dangling string of darkness and promises new attic moments. While I enjoyed this novel, I am on the fence as to which readers would enjoy it. Some major hardcore fans of V.C. Andrews may not like Niederman's drawn out (and unfinished) plot line, but those who really can't get enough of the soap opera drama that the original story provided should still enjoy the additional fodder related to the Flowers In The Attic family.

Christopher’s Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger is scheduled for release by Pocket Books in January 27, 2015; I look forward to that book to see if the family relationship between Kristin and the original clan can be unveiled.

Nov 28, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Friday, November 28, 2014
Fabulous biblical retelling

Keepers of the Covenant (Restoration Chronicles #2) by Lynn Austin
-easily read as a stand-alone!
Biblical fiction, paperback 480 pages
Bethany House, October 2014
Review copy provided by Bethany House in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

Read my review of the previous title in the series, Return To Me

The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple--but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges...this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.
Ahasuerus has risen from his throne and is in the act of stepping forward towards his wife, who falls swooning against her handmaidens. They support her as best they can, as Haman, in the seat of honor beside the King, leans forward, wondering what has prompted this reckless action of Esther's.- Women In The Bible

Long before the birth of Jesus, the Jews were persecuted and punished. The Old Testament shows us in the book of Esther how Queen Esther saved the Persian Jews from complete annihilation which resulted in the celebration called Purim. While the biblical story in Keepers of the Covenant begins with this well-known story of Haman and Mordecai of Esther 3-8, the author gives us a wonderfully fictionalized retelling of the prophet Ezra's family during this period of war and hardship. In the bible, the Book of Ezra tells us how God shows his forgiveness and restores the faith of his wayward people.

As with the first book in the series which gives us Zechariah's story, book two in the Restoration Chronicles focuses on characters who pull us into their re-imagined lives with absorbing and exciting storytelling. Ezra and his brothers were hard-working members of the Levite tribe exiled to Babylon when the king of Persia sends out a decree allowing all Jewish people to be slaughtered on a specific day. Ezra forces himself to become a leader of his Jewish peers and fight back. Meanwhile, we are also introduced to characters such as Amina and Sayfah, young daughters of the pagan Babylonian Gentiles who are eager to destroy the Jews; and Reuben, the young boy whose faith is tested when he loses almost everything during the violent thirteenth day of Adar.

Some favorite lines from characters in Keepers of the Covenant:

"As the psalmist wrote, our hope is in the Almighty One's unfailing love."

"If people follow God's laws at all, it's out of habit or legalism, not love. Some of us are no better than the Gentiles, ignoring God and His laws and then creating our own image of what God is like and what He wants from us."

"If we deny god, our lives aren't worth living."

Keepers of the Covenant is a captivating story of hardship, love and faith which depicts a historically important period for those of the Jewish community. I loved the first book, and I knew I would love this next installment. I was not disappointed at all, but I was reminded to continue to pick up the rest of Lynn Austin's work. I know I can't go wrong with any of her skillfully retold biblical novels. I highly recommend Lynn Austin and the Restoration Chronicles to any reader of biblical fiction. I especially love the larger size of these novels as well - nearing 500 pages, Keepers of the Covenant is a wonderfully engrossing and satisfying epic bible story.

Oct 28, 2014

Saint Brigid's Bones: A Celtic Adventure by Philip Freeman

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Saint Brigid's Bones: A Celtic Adventure by Philip Freeman
Pegasus Books, October 2014
240 pages, Historical Fiction

In an evocative Celtic novel set in a time when druids roamed the land, lively young sister Deirdre embarks on a mission to find the stolen bones of her convent’s patron saint.
In ancient Ireland, an island ruled by kings and druids, the nuns of Saint Brigid are fighting to keep their monastery alive. When the bones of Brigid go missing from their church, the theft threatens to destroy all they have worked for. No one knows the danger they face better than Sister Deirdre, a young nun torn between two worlds.
Trained as a bard and raised by a druid grandmother, she must draw upon all of her skills, both as a bard and as a nun, to find the bones before the convent begins to lose faith.
In this swiftly told tale set in Ancient Ireland, Sister Diedre is tasked with the most important job of the monastery at Kildare: to retrieve the stolen bones of Saint Brigid. Without the bones for pilgrims to come pay homage to, the nuns and those they care for will not survive for very long without the donations from visitors seeking healing from the precious relics. 

The author proves his intellect and research within the first person narrative of Sister Diedre as he deftly sets up the mystery and even manages to flesh out Sister Diedre's character as we wonder if she should have even become a nun in the first place. There was a short period within the telling where I wondered if I had missed a previous novel featuring Diedre's story, but we slowly learn the secrets of her past before she dedicated her life to the monastery. Diedre is a strong and willful young woman who was also a skilled bard with a few suitors at her doorstep. While she seeks answers to the mystery of the saint's bones, she encounters ruffians and piratical lords as well as several kings of the lands of Ancient Ireland. I was surprised that so much could occur within the seemingly short novel yet the pacing and suspense were very well stylized, and I was happy to see the Philip Freeman plans on publishing a second novel featuring the lively Sister Diedre.

Oct 15, 2014

The Lion Triumphant by Philippa Carr

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Lion Triumphant by Philippa Carr
various publishers, circa 1974

Catharine Kingsman The Lion Triumphant follows The Miracle at St Bruno's with Catharine, the daughter of Damask, growing up in the new Elizabethan age -- one of the most eventful in English history because of the struggle for power between two mighty rivals had begun. Catharine, smarting from the bitter blow which deprived her of her lover, meets the lusty sea Captain Jake Pennlyon, who makes it clear that he allows nothing to come between him and his desires. Catharine is the chief of these and the battle between two stong-willed and tempestuous people is fought out in the shadow of the growing rivalry between Spain and England. Catharine delights in outwitting the man who would subdue her and before he can have his way a mysterious abduction takes place. A captive on a Spanish galleon, Catharine experiences the terrors of the sea and makes the aquaintance of the mysterious and dignified Don Felipe. In the Hacienda she discovers the reason for her capture and what is demanded of her, which bears out the fact that Jake Pennlyon is a man whose life is inextricably interwoven with her own.
His symbol is the Lion and there is no escape from him and his determination to overcome her resistance. He is as sure of his power to subdue her as he is of England's to rule the seas. With her Spanish son Roberto and her English daughter Linnet, Catharine is torn between love and loyalty in a story of lusty adventure on land and sea, when those who lived in the turbulent sixteenth century were caught up in the trmendous events of their times. The fight for survival is Catharine's and Jake's, Roberto's and Linnet's -- as well as England's. From Plymouth, the ships set forth, for the issue will be decided at sea. Here is the most significant engagement of all times when the little ships of England drove off the mighty Spanish galleons of Spain and the Invincible Armada was defeated, leaving the Lion Triumphant.

The second book in the Daughters of England series by Philippa Carr (another pseudonym of Jean Plaidy fame) picks up with the next generation of the family from The Miracle at St. Bruno's. Damask's daughter Catharine is the heroine of the novel which takes on a very gothic feel. Even though some of the situations Cat would get herself in made me want to strangle her, I was enthralled by the story. This was supposed to be a read -along but I blew through it due to the wildness of some of the story arcs.

Catharine did have a tendency to get on my nerves - she was definitely a curious one - poking her nose in where she shouldn't. She had some really intriguing relationships going on which I am not going to spoil within the review here, but it was definitely a lot of fun and lived up to my expectations with a Carr novel.

I loved it so much that I had to know what was going to next in the third book, The Witch From The Sea, so the read - along participant and I decided to jump into that one next soon after. There are times when you just need to sink yourself into some crazy entertaining historical that just may be a bit off-kilter from reality, and the Philippa Carr series does the trick.

Oct 12, 2014

Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer
Historical Fiction/Christian
September 2014
Review copy provide by Bethany House in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

(Click here for other books by Anne Mateer reviewed on Burton Book Review)

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.
After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister. But the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!

Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year, determined to do well and prove herself to the town. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends in Dunn, the more Lula realizes God is working on her heart--and her future is beginning to look a lot different than she'd expected.
This was a heart tugging story put forth by Anne Mateer and her passion for telling this particular story shone through every page. It's a blend of faith and romance during the scary times of the Great War where boys striving to be men enlisted to make their families proud. An era where strict rules among the social classes existed, and fraternizing with the opposite sex would cost you your career.

The main characters of Lula and Chet were told in an alternating first person narrative which only took me a few turns to get accustomed to. Perhaps it was this first person narration that helped endear me to them and made me feel much more empathetic towards them both. Lula was both intelligent and independent but willing to give up everything she ever dreamed of in order to be near her sister during difficult times, and Chet was also making his own personal sacrifices for his family even while others misunderstood his intentions.

They work together and become close which causes envy among their peers, yet their entire courtship was a charming story to read as they opened up about their emotions and their individual passions. I especially enjoyed the development of the supporting characters and their families, and I would love to see a sequel to see what happens next for Chet and Lula.

Playing By Heart is a very inspirational story featuring music, basketball, coaching and the war efforts which was put together very well into a solid piece of Christian historical fiction which I recommend to any reader of the genre. Thanks to Anne Mateer and Bethany House for providing us with another great inspirational novel!

Aug 20, 2014

Rogue in Red Velvet by Lynne Connolly

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A swoon-worthy hero..

Rogue in Red Velvet by Lynne Connolly
Lyrical Press of Kensington Publishing Corp
August 2014
326 pages ebook
Review Copy provided via publisher for review in Library Journal Xpress

Emperors of London, #1
If Connie loses her standing in society, she risks losing everything…except Alex. 
When country widow Constance Rattigan finds herself in a notorious London brothel instead of at the altar, only one person can save her from the auction block.
Alex Vernon walked away from Connie once before, when he discovered her engagement. Now that her fiancé has betrayed her, Lord Ripley doesn’t intend to leave her again. But Connie has other ideas… She won’t marry him until her name is cleared. Alex decides to make Connie’s wishes come true, but it’s not that easy, even with the help of his powerful relatives known as the Emperors of London.

The last thing in Connie's mind as she is cataloging her godfather's ancient books among the cobwebs is that she will catch the eye of a sexy aristocrat, especially since she is a widower already engaged to Dankworth. When the powerful Lord Ripley makes Connie's acquaintance he finds Connie charming and alluring specifically because she is the opposite of the young debutantes who chase him tirelessly. It quickly turns into a love match between the two but there are quite a few obstacles tossed their way which includes the diabolical fiancé of Connie. Dankworth proves his worthlessness effortlessly but goes to extremes when he sells Connie at a whorehouse. Lord Ripley is there to catch her as she falls, but in the Georgian era where society means everything, will Connie be allowed to remain in polite London aristocratic society?

The passionate side to this rags to riches romance is not bashfully told as Lord Ripley teaches Connie what lovemaking should feel like. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced romance as well as the courageous main characters who are honorable and easy to like, while the villain epitomizes evil. The subtle hints regarding the unresolved and suspenseful subplot are welcome teasers of things to come in the next Emperors of London novel, which I would be happy to indulge in as well.

Aug 7, 2014

Summer of ... discontent?

Thursday, August 07, 2014
Content: that's my cat. She's cool.

You may be wondering what has happened to the voracious reader that once was me. I wonder sometimes too. Growing up I read constantly, from about third grade and onwards till about the time I was forced into child labor at age fifteen I read a lot. Enjoyed it. Then life happened and I did read, but just not as much. Then I got back into reading when I had settled down. Then it hit the fan and I stopped reading. Then it slowed down and I picked up with reading again. You get the drift.

I can honestly say (as opposed to the teen years of discovering Christopher Pike, V.C. Andrews and Francine Pascal) that the previous four years I had read more than ever before. And I don't want to say blogger burn-out, because it's not really that.. but things have just evolved in my life where I don't have a ton of spare time to BOTH read and THEN review it.

The reviewing is a chore. A dead bore. A blah blah blah blah there I did it let's move on kind of thing.
Where's the fun in that? Especially since I have given myself a ____________ about having a writer's block. See, I can't remember the freaking word I'm looking for. When I try too hard, I fail. And reviewing has come to be a big failure.

But that's not why I'm really scarce these days.

Blame it on my kids who are growing up, and the fact I have been coerced into volunteering more of that free time I would otherwise be reading with. So this August brings me into two new realms: Sunday School teacher and Girl Scout Assistant Leader. But let's not forget my uber official role of Cub Scout mom.

Damn kids.

I say that in jest. I've been merely floating along this last year wondering WTF is my life all about, and hey, maybe this will bring me the rainbows and sunshine that I've been looking for. Not likely, but at least it will be a semi-diversion from the otherwise train wreck of this lady getting old fast.

I shall be around, and maybe I'll blog more about my life - but I would get in trouble if my husband found out so I probably won't do it that often.

I have also been starving myself. Just wanted to throw that in there. Lost about 10 pounds since July 6. Pretty much eating like a bird and wanting to eat like a pig. But it'll be worth it in the end which I am not exactly sure what that was for any longer. Turns out he still doesn't give a shit about me. So whatever.

I will focus on the things where I can make a difference. Back in the beginning of my blogging days, there were a scattering few of bloggers. I was a newbie on the scene of the seasoned bloggers. And my reviews/posts were commented on, and garnered friendships = I was making a difference, in my little life, by building relationships.

Now that lots of folks blog, and review, and talk books, there really isn't much more that I can give that my next door neighbor couldn't give as well .. so I'll focus a bit more on the reality of me and my kids and try to be there physically for them. Healthy and fit, a good role model, and not with the computer screen in front of my face. Maybe that will be a noble endeavor that will fail anyway as they focus their eyes on small iPhones and iPads, but it's worth a shot.

Jul 24, 2014

Giveaway! Introducing Susanna Kearsley's SEASON OF STORMS

Thursday, July 24, 2014
There are a few authors that have me swooning at all of their new releases, and Susanna Kearsley is one of them. Very excited to be a part of a pre-publication tour for her newest novel Season of Storms! Even more excited that when I received the ARC in the mail I saw a blurb/quote from Burton Book Review on the back cover. These kinds of things make me a happy blogger.

And so with happiness, I give you the following synopsis and excerpt from the new novel, which you will have a chance to win your own advance readers' copy at the end of the blog post.
Available from Sourcebooks Landmark, September 2 2014
A mystery trapped in time..In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed. 

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands—at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Ascanio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance—and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro. But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back…

From Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

It was noon when he reached the Piazza San Marco.
The midday sun had bleached the square and cast a haze across the piazzetta, so that even the statues of San Teodoro and San Marco’s winged lion, they who had for these eight centuries stood vigi lant, their eyes fixed ever eastward over the serene lagoon, appeared today to slumber on their columns while below them at the edge of the canal the water barely swelled beneath the waiting row of gondolas.
He turned his back upon the gleaming pinnacles and domes of the basilica and searched among the faces in the strolling crowd for hers. No easy task, that. All of Venice seemed to be here, standing idly sharing gossip in the shadow of the bell-tower, or lunching at café tables by the Moorish colonnades. Music rose and met from either side of the piazza where the orchestras competed for attention from beneath their café awnings, a cultivated duel of rival melodies and rhythm that yet managed to produce a pleasing harmony.
Maître!” a delighted voice behind him cried and, turning, he recognized the oldest of the waiters from the café on his right, a sun-creased man from Corsica whose thick French accent clung to every word. “Maître, what a joy to see you here again. You must sit here, where all who pass can see you and pay tribute to your talent.”
He hesitated…he had not meant to stop here, but rather, like one of his own hounds, to keep to the chase, to find the scent and pursue it, relentless…but the waiter’s words, the blatant adoration, moved him suddenly. He sat. What did it matter, he thought, if he paused for a meal? Did not his own hounds hunt the better when they were refreshed?
He ate and drank deliberately, in honor of the watching eyes. A scraping of chairs at the table behind him announced the arrival of a new party, young, gay with laughter. A man in English said: “Oh no, but it really was too bad of you, John, not to stop the boat and let her have a go. She might have done it.”
Nonsense. From what I’ve heard, nobody gets in to see him. That man of his guards him like a Gurkha.”
And then a woman, in amusement, said: “I fancy Celia’s a match for any man’s man. Aren’t you, darling?”
Still with his back to their table he froze, his glass half-lifted to his lips, as something wonderful and warm began to tingle all along his spine. Fighting the impulse to leap to his feet at that moment and face her, he felt in his pockets for pencil and paper. Their meeting, this first meeting, mustn’t be ordinary. It must be creative, it must have appropriate drama. He wrote quickly, and signaled the waiter.
Yes, maître?”
Keeping his voice hushed he urged the man closer, conspiring.
Behind me—the blonde at the table behind me…”
A glance flickered over his head and then back again. “Yes, maître?”
There is only one blonde?”
There is, maître.”
Excellent. When I am gone, you will give her this note,” he said, folding the paper and pressing it into the waiter’s hand.
You will give it to her privately, pretending it is something she has dropped, perhaps. Do this for me, and I will be forever in your debt.”
The waiter bowed his head and left.

Once more the laughter of the English party rang out close behind him, and he raised his glass and drank the sweetness of the wine and smiled.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers’ Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

Links to my reviews of a few of Susanna Kearsley's recent novels:
The Splendour Falls
The Firebird
The Shadowy Horses

GIVEAWAY of one ARC copy of Season of Storms!
(Open to USA only)

Jul 18, 2014

Mutiny of the Heart by Jennifer Bray-Weber

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mutiny of the Heart (Romancing the Pirate) by Jennifer Bray-Weber
Carina Press, June 23, 2014
ebook/75,000 words/216 pages/9781426898525
Review Copy provided via publisher for review in Library Journal Xpress
Navigating the high seas as the female captain of a pirate ship means always being on your guard—especially when one takes a temptingly handsome slave on board.

Captain Joelle Quint believes the slave claiming to be a cartographer can help her decipher the map her father left her when she was a child. She's spent years trying to unlock its truths, hoping that it holds the answers to a dark family secret.
Sloan Ricker has no intention of remaining captive. When the fiery, red-headed captain offers him his freedom in exchange for solving her map, what begins as an opportunity to escape becomes a struggle to make the beautiful, intriguing Joelle his mistress in more ways than one.

Amidst a battle with the Royal Navy and a first mate's jealousy, Joelle also fights her growing lust. And as much as he'd like to deny it, Ricker's desire for Joelle has overcome his initial disdain. To get the answers, independence and love that they both long f
or, Joelle and Ricker must relinquish control to each other…or die trying.

This suspenseful romance brings us to the Caribbean waters full of pirates, battles and lusty encounters. Where other novels would have a helpless woman aboard a ship as a passenger, the twist offered with Mutiny of the Heart is the fact that the very capable captain of the Rissa is a very capable female who also has a sexual relationship with a crew member. Joelle is the strong-willed female who has earned herself honors along the privateers due to her skill and charm but she has one mission in life: to find the answers hidden in the map her father left behind. The waters get muddy when she hires a handsome map reader to help her and wild abandon threatens to take over..mutiny style. While the love triangle is the major thrust (pun intended) there is a subplot of intrigue and mystery that speeds us along as the characters are enjoyable and well defined.

Erotically told but not quite over the top, the novel offers themes of independence, willpower and choosing love over pride. The writing style succeeded in keeping my interest, where some may blush at the detailed sexual encounters it seems to fit together perfectly to form the perfect beach read.

Jul 14, 2014

Somerset by Leila Meacham

Monday, July 14, 2014
epic soap opery saga kleenex material

Somerset by Leila Meacham
Hardcover, 624 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Disclosure: I requested this title on NetGalley but it took several weeks for them to get around to responding to the request, so I finally decided to just read the hardcopy when it was provided by a friend; I then waited till I was ready to get around to it myself. And voila, here is the review.

One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.

Read my review of Roses
Read my review of Tumbleweeds

Several years back I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Leila Meacham during her book tour for Roses and I waxed not so eloquently about it here on the blog. It was then that she said she didn't want to be at the beck and call of a publisher's schedule, so I cried inside as I knew I would want more of her stories from her graceful pen.

Luckily her husband gave her the idea to tell the story of the how Roses came to be, which brings us to Somerset, the story of the ancestors of the characters in Roses, which I enjoyed immensely. 'Generations' would be an apt subtitle for Somerset, as it completes much of the family history of several generations of the Warwicks, Tolivers and DuMonts. And if you haven't read Roses yet, that's okay. You'll want to when you finish Somerset.

Somerset begins before the Civil War between the States, and it carries us all the way through to the 1900's where inventions and progress have come to the founding families of Howbukter, Texas. Although a fictional story, the author does a very good job at imparting historical tidbits about the life and times of our American pioneers as they leave South Carolina and head straight for Texas where war is brewing between early settlers, Mexico and Indians. The Tolivers focus on cotton, Warwicks on lumber, and the DuMonts have a very special department store.  These families are made of something special, and each with a special characteristic to make them unique to the story. Slaves and their treatment are a bit part of the novel, and
I can appreciate the special attention to the abolitionist cause as well as the view from a Southerner's point of view.  Readers of Roses will remember the curse the Tolivers had to deal with, and the origin comes to play in Somerset, which means no one is safe from death's cruel hand. Have your tissues handy for there is love found and lost, grief and happiness all flowing from page to page of Somerset.

Roses was compared to Gone With the Wind due to it's same style of drama and similar era, and that is same with Somerset. Nothing can compare to that classic blockbuster, but Meacham gives us good storytelling told with heart, and the main characters of Silas and Jessica Toliver really stand out. Their friends and their family all form the patchwork that is the story of Somerset, and I'm itching to re-read Roses now. A really good sink your teeth into type of novel, Somerset is a fantastic chunkster that really makes it worthwhile if you are in the mood for a soap-opera style generational novel.

I will say that those readers looking for the "wars of the roses" link will be disappointed that it is just a small thread. Don't expect a miraculous connection to British royalty in the novel as it is simply a symbolic gesture to remembering heritage. Those readers who are interested in what it may have been like living in America during its earlier years will feel more in tune with America's early progress after reading Meacham's expansive novel.

Jul 3, 2014

Stormbird: Wars of the Roses book one by Conn Iggulden

Thursday, July 03, 2014
Fantastic storytelling

Stormbird: Wars of the Roses book one by Conn Iggulden
US edition July 8, 2014 from Putnam Adult
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

The first book in #1 New York Times bestselling author Conn Iggulden’s brilliant new historical series about two families who plunged England into a devastating, decades-long civil war.

In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named "The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?

This was a fantastic novel on one of my favorite historical eras. I was really expecting something less exciting, -more profane perhaps- as I am prejudiced against male authors after coming across a few novels in my earlier years that turned me away from male authors. So I have to really be intrigued by the subject matter in order to want to read a male author and yet again I have proven myself wrong in my prejudice (this time!).

The fact that I zipped through this novel doesn't make it any less worthy, it just made it a page turner. Instead of focusing on just one particular facet during the reign of the feeble Henry VI, the novel takes on a panoramic and expansive view as it jumps effortlessly from one character to the other. We get the bad guys, and the good guys, the political heavy-weights, the nobles, some peasants, and some of the Royal family. It really gets going quickly as the pacing of the story made it hard to put down. After reading quite a few Wars of the Roses novels I was thoroughly impressed with how I felt I learned something new, and in an enjoyable way. As usual, my only complaint is that I'll have to wait forever to read the next book in the series, (hoping I can snag it from a UK seller this fall) and I despise reading works so far apart from each other. (2018 update: NOPE I still have not read any others in the series, but I did buy them! Now I am just super confused what is what because they changed the titles from UK to USA just to be idiotic).

The author's note at the end explains some of the fictionalized events of the novel and yet I didn't feel as I was reading it that things were out of place. I enjoyed some of the characters that were entirely fictitious as well as the way the author portrayed the well-known figures of the era. Richard of York was so easy to despise with his arrogant ways! And Margaret of Anjou was so easy to like with her quick intelligence! Poor Henry VI, you can't really change his character too much, as yet again he was a bit of a zombie during the novel. (Oh, no please don't do a zombie mashup novel!)

There was a lot of suspense as the rebellions grew and with the fate of Master Brewer, the fictional character, which put a nice spin on to the tale. I am pleased to report that there were not any male chauvinistic tendencies nor were there very much crude language if at all. Stormbird is an excellent slice of the big pie of the Wars of the Roses epic saga, and I cannot wait to dig into more from the author.

Jul 1, 2014

Petals On The Wind by V.C. Andrews (and the next two in the series)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Pocket Books May 2014 reissue
Petals On the Wind was sent to me free for a review, thank you. While I hesitate to call this a review as it stands, I wanted to give you that disclosure. If you are sensing deja-vu, I did a quick spotlight post here.

On the heels of the successful Lifetime TV version of Flowers in the Attic comes the TV movie tie-in edition of Petals On the Wind, the second book in the captivating Dollanganger saga.
Forbidden love comes into full bloom. For three years they were kept hidden in the eaves of Foxworth Hall, their existence all but denied by a mother who schemed to inherit a fortune. For three years their fate was in the hands of their righteous, merciless grandmother. They had to stay strong…but in their hopeless world, Cathy and her brother Christopher discovered blossoming desires that tumbled into a powerful obsession. Now, with their frail sister, Carrie, they have broken free and scraped enough together for three bus tickets and a chance at a new life. The horrors of the attic are behind them…but they will carry its legacy of dark secrets forever.

Yeah I know you are like "I caught you!" since here I am reading V.C. Andrews - again - twenty something years later. Am I twisted, or what?

Yes, I DID read this new edition of Petals On The Wind, the second installment of the super freaky and creepy Dollanganger series. And YES I did love the guilty pleasure SO MUCH that I sprinted for the first time in about five years to get through the library doors a minute before they closed so that I could borrow the next two books in the series.

Lifetime Movie Network had shown a Flowers In The Attic made for TV movie, and that was a hit so they also aired Petals On The Wind in late May. I watched them both on live TV, no DVR'ing for this girl. This is great stuff. My husband attempted to watch Petals with me and he was like "He's her brother!!!" and thus I was ashamed ;) and he promptly left the room.

Yes, it's crazy material that no one can really describe.. but for some reason I still loved the whole sick thing decades later. Spine tingling tension, characters that creep you out but you're totally sorry for their predicament. One thing I was concerned with was after watching the TV movie, would that make the book crappy or redundant for me a few weeks later? Nope. The movie was a tad different, and the book, you guessed it: WAS BETTER!

Cathy Cathy Cathy Cathy... Damn her vindictive little mind. Carrie Carrie Carrie.. take some vitamins! Chris Chris Chris.. Keep your raging hormones to yourself! UGH! And then Cathy meets Dr. Paul Sheffield and things should be peachy keen, but nope Dr. Paul adds a whole new layer of something creepy/ominous. And then boom! Cathy decides to be a sex kitten/ballerina. I would never be able to explain the plot without giving away spoilers and sounding like a bit of a nut job myself so suffice it to say the Dollangangers make excellent summer reading. Even the second time around. Even if I wanted to knock some sense into Cathy.

So there I went and careened into the library to pick up this hot chunk of a book:
"Out of the ashes of evil Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for their splendid children..."
This snazzy edition published in 2010 has both book three and book four. Book three being If There Be Thorns (first published 1981) and book four being Seeds of Yesterday.

I would have preferred reading the original editions with the cool cut-out covers, but this is all my library had, and it was water damaged at that. I can imagine many a teen-aged girl poring over these 816 pages for quite some time, so this book has gotten a thorough workout. I will say that there were several typos in this edition, which is totally uncool. Had they really fired all the editors at Simon Schuster?

In book three, we are introduced to the next generation as we watch the sins of the parents affect the young ones. As secrets start to come out, the family is facing many a psychological and crucially disgusting fact about Cathy and Chris. This is how the kids deal with revelations and scandal while they create a bit of their own. I read this book in about five days, and it did actually drag a bit in the Seeds of Yesterday. But then it picked up the pace and I couldn't put it down.

So as you can see, life is a like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. One day I'll be reading the bible, and then crazy stuff like V.C. Andrews. Or of course, my standard historical piece.
If you need a bit of a pick-yourself-up-away-from-the-hell-that-is-your-life, well, check out this series. It all began with Flowers In The Attic....

Dollanganger #5 is Garden of Shadows. I will keep my eyes open for that one as it is really a prequel. I hate prequels. But I'll still keep me eyes open for it just in case I need that pick-me-up. Not everything requires a tense literary thought provoking masterpiece, sometimes you just gotta let your hair down and read some entertaining stuff. So this is like the second or third time I've read Young Adult in five years, and I can't say it's that bad.

Jun 16, 2014

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick finally releases in USA!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Last summer I scoured the internet in search of the newest Elizabeth Chadwick historical novel, as she is by far my absolute favorite author in the genre.

If you weren't as lucky as I was to find the UK title, here are some links to get your shopping done easier:
Follow Elizabeth Chadwick's site: and Twitter: @Chadwickauthor -

I know I am not alone with the sentiment that Chadwick is a fantastic writer, so I jumped at the chance offered by the USA publisher Sourcebooks to give away their upcoming July release of The Summer Queen! See the end of the post for the details on the giveaway, but for now I would like to whet your whistle with a re-post of the review I posted last summer.

Book summary
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive.

This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Barely out of childhood, this gives an entirely new slant to how Eleanor is treated bv those around her. She was often the victim and her first marriage was horribly abusive.

Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor's legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . . 

Once upon a time there lived an amazing woman who was destined to be ruler of Aquitaine. Her heart and soul was with Aquitaine and the heritage that she was born with. In a time where women were considered frail or used as chattel, Eleanor of Aquitaine rises up and becomes Queen of France, then dumps her husband and that title only to soon become Queen of England.

After many reads based on Eleanor's life, one would think I've had enough. But then here comes Elizabeth Chadwick writing a novel that she has wanted to write for a very long time. Her previous historicals on William Marshal were based during Eleanor's time, and Eleanor would beckon to the author to write Eleanor's story.

And that she did. With typical Chadwick flair, we have a start to what will prove to be an amazing trilogy on Eleanor, except our main protagonist is now called Alienor. My first inclination was to shy from this twist on the anglicized name of Eleanor, but Chadwick's skillful writing set me at ease with this proper spelling of Eleanor right away. Among other things, I loved how she portrayed Louis; my feelings about him changed as his character changed.. and she made him more interesting than he probably was! What a sack of uselessness he seemed to be.

Alienor's story is familiar to most of us medieval fiction lovers, but as always Chadwick tells it beautifully and with deft writing skill. She does not inundate us with endless facts and names, she simply draws us into Alienor's world from the time she was a child to the time she finally meets Henry, her second husband. It is a poignant tale as we ache for Alienor during her loveless marriage to the weak and overly pious King of France even though we know eventually she will break free. But Chadwick gives us the full story, the full measure of Alienor so that we live and breathe in Alienor's world unlike any other novel on the woman.

We root for Alienor as she faces obstacle after obstacle (and goes on a crusade!) and we still manage to learn a bit more of the story behind the well-known history of the era. Her sister Petronella shows us a new side of a scandalous story, and Alienor herself proves she is not all ice as one would believe. The supporting characters all add to the nuances of the drama, and there were some characters who get to stay around longer than others as the author saw fit. Fans of both Chadwick and the love and hate story between Eleanor and Henry will love this telling, but will be sad when the novel is over because there is still so much left to be told. I am impatiently waiting for the author to write the next installment, The Winter Crown, which we hope will be available by the fall of 2014.

As I stated in my final reading status update on Goodreads, "Chadwick writes so well I am annoyed I've finished the book." There is no need for me to repeat how awesome and vivid of a story that Elizabeth Chadwick writes, she is the ultimate contemporary expert of medieval historical fiction in my humble opinion. Yet I will never get tired of complimenting Elizabeth Chadwick's writing as long as she promises to write more, more, more, more, and more!!! Come on, 2014!

A problem that I'll have to debate during my wait for her next novel is trying to decide which is my favorite Chadwick novel of the eight that I've read. I've read three Chadwick's this year but 2011's Lady of the English still sticks in my mind. Perhaps I'll have to have a Chadwick Re-Read Marathon to see which is the cream that rises to the top. Of those that I've read, Shadows and Strongholds, Lady of the English, and now The Summer Queen will be battling for that position. Which novel was your favorite Chadwick thus far?

Open to USA and Canada addresses only and ends 6/21/2014. 
Whatever Email address you use to log in to rafflecopter is the address that will be used to notify the winner;  I will expect a reply to my email within 24 hours or another winner will be chosen.

Jun 14, 2014

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

Saturday, June 14, 2014
A simply wonderful story to enjoy

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok
Riverhead Publishing June 2014
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars, new fave

Read my review of Girl In Translation, also by Jean Kwok

From the bestselling author of Girl in Translation, a novel about a young woman torn between her family duties in Chinatown and her escape into the world of ballroom dancing.

Twenty-two-year-old Charlie Wong grew up in New York’s Chinatown, the older daughter of a Beijing ballerina and a noodle maker. Though an ABC (America-born Chinese), Charlie’s entire world has been limited to this small area. Now grown, she lives in the same tiny apartment with her widower father and her eleven-year-old sister, and works—miserably—as a dishwasher.

But when she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, Charlie gains access to a world she hardly knew existed, and everything she once took to be certain turns upside down. Gradually, at the dance studio, awkward Charlie’s natural talents begin to emerge. With them, her perspective, expectations, and sense of self are transformed—something she must take great pains to hide from her father and his suspicion of all things Western. As Charlie blossoms, though, her sister becomes chronically ill. As Pa insists on treating his ailing child exclusively with Eastern practices to no avail, Charlie is forced to try to reconcile her two selves and her two worlds—Eastern and Western, old world and new—to rescue her little sister without sacrificing her newfound confidence and identity.
There is something in Jean Kwok's writing that sinks under your skin and takes shape as it blooms into something unexplainably beautiful. Even though that's not a great sentence, it evokes the nuance of what I want to say, though the author of Mambo In Chinatown does not have any problems with getting her words out. The author has a unique voice with her story telling as she pulls from her own experiences and transports us to a place of completeness and unity with her characters. Her main character of Charlie is a clumsy dishwasher with callouses, yet she becomes an irresistible young woman when allowed to break out of her family's close inner shell.

Charlie's family life is a huge dynamic in the story, as we learn through Charlie's daily tasks the way it is for a family of Chinese immigrants and their offspring assimilating into the scheme of their new world. While Chinese customs may feel strange when I would think about them offhandedly, they are neatly told with a solid purpose and reason throughout the novel and are very intriguing. This is how we become immersed with Charlie and her growing struggles while accepting her intolerant father and her naive sister. As Charlie learns how to become independent, she needs to find a way to do it without alienating all those that she loves, adding to the fact she doesn't have a selfish bone in her body making her a very likable character.

And while the story is definitely character focused, the events of Charlie's life seem a bit like a Cinderella story with a very modern (and Chinese) slant. Following in her mother's footsteps, she learns things about herself she never thought possible, and she even falls in love. As the nobody-dishwasher turns into someone that turns heads, the fabulous writing pulls us into this coming-of-age story and doesn't let go. Once you do get going and begin to feel like Charlie is your new best friend, you won't want to put this book down.

Much like her debut novel, Girl In Translation, Jean Kwok gives us a unique look at a topic I never thought I would be interested in regarding the Chinese culture, and this novel features an added facet of the elite world of ballroom dancing. Once again the author has added her book to my favorites list. I sincerely hope I do not have to wait another four years for another Jean Kwok novel!

Jun 10, 2014

Silenced by Dani Pettrey

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Suspense and romance makes this a page turner!

Bethany House, May 6 2014
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 Stars

Jake Knew Something Was Wrong.But He Never Guessed How Wrong. 
A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.
Kayden's climbing expertise soon leads her and Jake to the realization that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is onto them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine. 

Reading several of Dani Pettrey's previous novels in the series, I could not wait to see how Kayden's  story turns out! She was always the strong-willed character, the tough to crack girl who was stubborn and slightly untouchable. This time around Kayden and Jake (who she just started to trust in the last novel) are working together to fend off a killer. It took a little while for me to get back into the groove of the family dynamics, so if you haven't read the previous books it may not come together as clear as it should. The family of siblings is a major theme in the stories that is not as explanatory in this novel since it is book four, so it is perfect for those familiar with the series

This novel is full-force suspense and action that features mostly Kayden and Jake's relationship with the rest of the siblings as bit parts to fill in the scenes and help hunt for the killer. The mystery part slowly comes together but seems like it flows well from the last one even though I hadn't had the time to read that one. I missed an entire book on Jake's past and I would definitely rather have read that first however.

As Pettrey's fans know, she packs a lot of thrill into her Christian themed romances, and this was no different. It was page turning suspense for me and I enjoyed revisiting the McKenna family. I also love that this is a series of books that I can save for my young adult daughter, as the christian theme is never over done and won't bore her as it is packed with a thrilling storyline and the romance is always G-rated.

Next one will probably feature Reef, the original bad boy turned good, and I want to read that also!