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The Lettered Affair by Alice Ayden

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The Lettered Affair by Alice Ayden

So this book was written as a 4 novella series. It actually read somewhat like a magazine or newspaper serial that you would read week after week. The books picked up directly after the first one ends as if there was no break. Additionally, the entire series was written in the form of letters between the characters. Most times that doesn’t work out as well as the author hopes, but in this case it worked brilliantly.

The story follows two sisters as they deal with the people in their lives in Victorian England. Cassandra is the elder sister who has married the  cousin to which her father’s house was entailed. It was not a love match, but they get along fine. She meets Lord Halithorpe, Henry, and falls in love. As she would never betray her husband, this puts a great strain on her when she finds out her love is returned. Cassie’s sister Juliana is the youngest sister and refuses to marry  without love. After Cassie is married, she goes to the home of a friend, where she meets Lord Kemnay, Retton, whom she works with regularly to help his sister. In the midst of all this is Henry’s brother, Nathaniel, and Juliana’s mother (Cassie’s stepmother) Patience make it their mission to destroy the two girls and their options for happily ever after.

I actually greatly enjoyed how well-developed and complex the characters were in this book. Through the letters being written back and forth between the characters (it’s not just between Cassie and Juliana, but between all the characters) you get a real sense of what they’re like. Some of the letters are written as scenes, but they are put in such a context that you get to see the scene and not forget you are reading a letter. You fall in love with the girls’ beloved. You are entertained and delighted with the grandmother of Henry and Nathaniel. You feel compassion for Retton and a building hatred and pity for Patience and Nathaniel.

Even though it is written through letters, the story is amazingly easy to follow, but still complex. There were twists and turns that I had not expected, but did a fantastic job of further developing the characters and keeping the story line from going stale. It is a clean romance as well, which was wonderful because you could focus on the myriad of emotions playing through all the letters.

I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who likes historical romances or clean romances. Also, anyone who enjoys fiction that focuses on the development of relationships and even mind-games. For anyone getting into historical, clean romance or fiction, this would be an interesting book to start with. I thought the story line was  fresh, the twists and turns kept it from being a standard or overused story line I’ve read before. Also, the format kept the information presented interesting because you would cleaning switch between characters. A definite read-again in the future.

 

My rating:

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Highland Healer (Highland Healer #1) by Florence Love Karsner

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Highland Healer (Highland Healer #1) by Florence Love Karsner

I got the impression this may have been the author’s first book. I can’t say it was written poorly or that the story line needed developed, but it was a little choppy in places and areas were a little hard to follow. This story follows two women. The description and such explain it as just following one woman, Caitlin, but early on it begins a parallel story line with Millie. For a while I wasn’t sure if Millie’s story line was a history of something that needed to be known for something in Caitlin’s story to be understood, but the two women meet each other about half-way through the book and the story continues on with them together.

The story begins with Caitlin settling in to a new home she finds after fleeing an angry Captain who thinks she is a witch who killed his son. As she is a healer, she has work in the nearby village and a quiet life. She is interrupted one night by the MacKinnon brothers, whose youngest has suffered a terrible injury and must have his leg amputated. While they wait for their brother to recover enough to be moved, the eldest brothers, Jack and Alex, begin to know the healer. Alex in particular becomes attached to the healer and after hearing her plight about the Captain (and also an enraged Lord who she overheard talking treason) is determined to help her. After they leave, the Captain finds Caitlin and she takes off for the northern MacKinnon lands in search of help.

That all seems pretty simple, but the author weaves a second story line into the  book. Millie is the wife of the Lord Caitlin angered. The story encounters Millie as she is devising a way to flee her abusive life and return to her family’s land in Scotland. She makes her escape while heavily pregnant and encounters Caitlin in her flight.

Also, Caitlin’s uncle Wabi is a wizard and has been trying to teach Caitlin about the powers she holds within herself. He pops in and out of the story, being quite skillfully depicted and lively. When Caitlin’s powers do finally emerge, the shock of them leaves her reeling and seeking guidance.

This book is part fantasy, part classic romance, and part woman power. Each chapter you are following and different character, which is confusing at first, particularly when they start introducing Millie’s story line. However, after the two story lines combine it gets easier. For the most part you are following six different characters and each usually gets their own chapter or part of a chapter in a cycle. The characters are extremely well developed. You have a definite feel for each character and what they are going to do. She even makes the people who aren’t there real through memories or stories of the other characters. The story could have used a little more down time and a little less conflict. I think she could have cut out one less enemy and still been fine. The accent of the brothers is heavy Scottish brogue, so if you’ve never read or heard it before that can be confusing as well.

Overall, not a bad book. It was good, just really complex. Anyone who is sensitive toward domestic abuse probably shouldn’t read it. If you like fantasy books that aren’t too out there, this is a great book. If you like reading fiction that takes place in Scotland, it is also a great book. I can’t say I’d recommend this for anyone getting into the genre because it can be confusing and it’s not quite built up well on the magical end (Wabi explains his abilities and powers well, but when it comes to Caitlin it’s very confusing). Overall, a decent read.

My rating:

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Poppy (Tales of Dimwood Forest #2) by Avi

Poppy (Tales of Dimwood Forest #2) by Avi

I vaguely remember greatly enjoying this book when I was young and decided to read it for a challenge this year. I’m glad I did as I was enchanted by the book again.

The story follows a deer mouse named Poppy. She and her boyfriend defy the local law of asking the resident owl of the neighborhood, Mr. Ocax, permission to move beyond the house they live in. As a result, her boyfriend is killed and eaten by Mr. Ocax. Immediately after, Poppy’s father decides the family has gotten too big for the abandoned house they live in and seeks to petition Mr. Ocax for permission to move to New House up the road some. When Mr. Ocax denies his permission, Poppy sets out on an adventure to find out what Mr. Ocax is hiding about New House.

I think this is a fantastic book for children, but maybe not those too young or those that would be greatly disturbed by the death of a character (especially one who was the focus of the first book in the series). This would be particularly good for young girls. It teaches lessons on believing in yourself and fighting against the bad people. There are also the standard lessons of making friends and making good on your word. Also, there is a lesson on not believing everything you are told until you find out the facts for yourself. The writing style is very fluid and the language is wonderful. There is no shortage of interesting words or vocabulary to help a youngster’s vocabulary grow.

It was honestly a delightful book that I enjoyed reading and was able to still, as an adult, feel for the characters and get pulled into the story. There is one character that is actually quite hilarious for adults to read as he has an adult’s view of young people. The old man is quite entertaining in his interactions with Poppy and other creatures throughout the book.  All-in-all a good read and would make good bedtime stories for the older children.

My rating:

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Training Your Pit Bull by Joe Stahlkuppe

Training Your Pit Bull by Joe Stahlkuppe

So I had some issues with this book. Frankly, as a pit bull owner, this book pissed me off. I am a newer owner. Spike (we adopted him with this name, it was not my idea LOL) is my first pit bull but I have been around others before deciding to adopt him. I felt that as a new owner, I should read up on the breed and training tips to help me make the most of my time with Spike.

This book actually terrified my when I first read it. The first third of the book is pit bull history and whether you should adopt or buy a pit bull based on your personality and life-style. Since we had already adopted Spike at this point, I was horrified to read that both my personality and life-style are the opposite of what this guy wants for pit bull owners.

The majority of the book explains why you need to control you pit bull at all times and how everything you do can go wrong and end up killing your pit bull. Some of the advice I believe is way too restrictive and cannot be applied to every pit bull. The author expects all the pit bull owners reading the book to not have a clue how to handle a dog and warn them against every possible way a pit bull can be provoked into a fight. They really aren’t as wild and unruly as he makes them seem.

I actually had a really hard time finishing the book because of how much it annoyed me. There was good advice on how to train and the history was very interesting. Also, he talks about some of the activities you can do, such as agility training and a Canine Good Citizenship certificate. However, the rest of the book is a bunch of reasons why you either shouldn’t own a pit bull, why you must have them in complete control at all times, and how your pit bull will be killed if you don’t take every imaginable precaution under the sun to make sure that your dog in no way looks like he is fighting or the cause of a problem.

I feel that if people read this book before they buy or adopt a pit bull, the breed will never be a house pet again. It really is a shame because the book did have some useful information in it. I think the book needs re-written by a writer who isn’t out to change the current breed and make sure only the most ideal people get the dogs. It needs to be written with someone who will list their advantages and support the owners in a way that won’t make them think twice about the dog they got. The book really does portray the breed as being able to go vicious at any time and at the drop of the hat. A different author and tone would definitely change the book.

My rating:

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The Lost Girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

The Lost Girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

This book follows the around-the-world (ATW) trip of the three authors. The women were friends living in New York that greatly enjoyed traveling. On one backpacking trip in Argentina, the talked about how much they wanted to take a year off and back pack around the world. When they got back to the city, all their lives began to show signs of strain and the need for drastic change – changing jobs, boyfriend issues, not performing well at work. So they follow through on their plan and book their trip. They travel through Peru, Brasil, Kenya, India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. Throughout their trip they hike the Inca trail, volunteer, train to be yogis, bungee jump, and surf, just to name a few activities.

The book is a series of remembrances (I don’t really want to say journal entries because they aren’t) of the different places they visit. Each chapter is written by a different woman, sometimes in the same place as the previous chapter or in a different one. Each chapter focuses on the experiences the girls had and the emotional journey each went through on the trip. They talk about funny accidents, depressed spirits, cultural awakenings, fighting among themselves, and the influence each place had on them. Through it all you connect with the women on a personal level. It’s a little hard to tell the difference between them at first as you read, but as you move through the book, you are able to tell who’s writing the chapter based on the emotions, fears, loves, and desires of the writer. You learn bits about each country they travel to, but the bulk of the story focuses on how their experiences changed, influenced, or validated themselves and their feelings in some way.

For a travel novel, I would have liked to learn more about the countries they visited. They move through countries quite quickly, but spending at least a week in a country would give you plenty to discuss about the culture. They, unfortunately, only give bits and pieces that link to the story they are telling. Some of the emotional issues they were working through got a little old to hear about after a while because it was the same issue over and over. For the most part, however, they kept the drama and over-use of emotion to a minimum. There was a lot of emotional discovery and decision making that women in their twenties are going to have an easy time relating to. Also, the variety in personalities makes it easy to connect with at least one of the women. For me, I was able to connect with Holly the best.

You learn quite a bit about working as a writer in New York, as well as living in New York from the book. You learn about the emotional struggles women face. You learn interesting tidbits about backpacking, hostels, and traveling for an extended period of time. You pick up small things about the different countries they visit. You discover the kindness of strangers and joy in embracing differences.

For a travel memoir, it was really good. For a book about culture and traveling, eh, I know there are better books. For a book about women, it’s very good without being filled with drama, drama, drama. I can say that I enjoyed reading it, but will probably not read it again. I would recommend though to anyone looking for a light book on travel or an interesting book for a change of pace. Also, anyone interested in travel or culture would most likely enjoy it. Probably, not a great read for a guy though, they’d most likely find it boring.

My rating:

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Since I discovered I greatly enjoy Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, I went with this book as my next read because it sounded interesting. I was not disappointed. Like the other books, there were several twists and turns and all the little clues factored in to the final reveal of the murderer. I have to say I actually like these books a little more than Sherlock Holmes stories.

The book is written mostly from the perspective of Hercule Poirot’s good friend Captain Hastings. The premise for the book begins with Hercule Poirot receiving a letter about an imminent event that Mr. Poirot will be involved in and signed with the anonymous signature A.B.C. The event is a murder. Not a high-profile, sensational murder, but a crime against a lone shopkeeper that barely gets its own article in the newspaper. Thus begins a series of murders committed in alphabetical order (both the person’s name and the town) with letters sent ahead of time in warning.

You meet a host of interesting characters, ranging from the self-important Inspector Crome and the violently jealous boyfriend of one of the victims to the world-traveling brother and quiet personal secretary of another victim. Throughout it all you get snippets from other people’s points of view. You begin to think the murderer is one person then a piece of evidence shows up and it’s not them. Then clues lead you to think it’s someone else, but lo and behold it’s not them either. The actual murderer at the end really surprised me.

It was actually a really good book. Anyone who enjoys murder mysteries would greatly enjoy this book. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to get into reading mysteries. There is no gory or sexual scenes which is nice. The majority of the time is the analysis of the evidence and creating conclusions based on what has been found. They are very similar to Sherlock Holmes, but a little better in my opinion.

My rating:

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National Poetry Month

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National Poetry Month

It is National Poetry Month once again. Each year I try to read some form of poetry to honor the month. This year I’m either going to be reading Beowulf or Edgar Allan Poe. Even though I’m not a poetry fan, it is still a strong writing style and reading interest. Poetry helps  people connect with themselves, the world around them, and emotions. It is less intimidating to some people when they are asked to read something. Here are some popular poets and poems.

Some famous poets: 

  • Robert Frost
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Walt Whitman
  • Maya Angelou
  • Langston Hughes
  • D. H. Lawrence
  • E. E. Cummings
  • T. S. Eliot
  • Pablo Neruda

Famous Works of Epic Poetry

  • The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
  • The Aeneid by Virgil
  • Don Juan by Lord Byron
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  • Beowulf
  • Metamorphosis by Ovid
  • Epic of Gilgamesh

Famous Poems