Monday, October 30, 2017

"Witch at Heart" by Juliette Harper

My apologies in the delay of posting a new review, but my daughter recently wound up in the hospital Emergency Room and needed to have her appendix removed. This unexpected emergency put me behind on my reading/reviewing (hopefully for reasons you can understand and respect.) She is much better now though and I am back to reading and reviewing books to share with all of you.

Today’s book is the first book in the Jinx Hamilton series. I hope to post reviews of the six book box set that I am currently reading, but since I wanted to have something at least remotely related to a Halloween theme up here in time for the holiday, I decided to go ahead and post my review of book 1 in the series “Witch at Heart.”

In the beginning of this book, Jinx’ “Crazy Aunt Fiona” has recently died, leaving Jinx as the new owner of her store in Briar Hollow as well as the apartment above the store. Jinx immediately moves into the apartment and begins the process of finding out what inventory is in the store. She also discovers that although her aunt may be dead, she is not entirely gone for good. While Aunt Fiona is not haunting either Jinx or the store, her ghost is still around... just not necessarily when Jinx wants her to be.

It soon becomes obvious that Jinx is now also in possession of her aunt’s abilities as a witch, though those powers are still growing and developing in Jinx. Feeling more than a little overwhelmed, Jinx calls her best friend Tori to come and help her settle into her new home and life. Before long the two have come up with a plan to renovate the building and run the store together. It is also important to note that the store, who goes by the name of Myrtle, seems to possess an intelligence of her own and used to help Aunt Fiona out with finding whatever she needed in the jumble of a storage room.

Jinx and Tori soon find themselves involved in the mystery of who killed a young girl a number of years ago and why, as well as trying to discover who the young girl really was. Jinx’ ability to see and talk to spirits really helps with this mystery, but are they in over their heads? It is a great deal for the two girls to take on, but it is also something that they feel they must do.

This book was a nice, easy read and very interesting. I enjoyed watching as Jinx begins to discover her emerging new abilities and how to use them. Tori is the perfect business partner for Jinx and they work well together. What may be a weakness in one is appropriately balanced with a strength in the other. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot and am ready to start reading book 2 in the series/box set.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"The Waystation: 'Cause Dead's Not Really Dead" by Laurie Jameson

First of all, I want to start off by letting you know that the author of this book contacted me and asked if I would read and review her book. In exchange for doing so, she provided me with a free digital copy of “The Waystation.”

I’m not normally all that fond of highly spiritual books, but I did really enjoy this one. While there are a great deal of religious overtones to the story, these aspects are presented in a way that those who are not highly religious will still enjoy the tale the author has woven.

The Waystation in the story is a resting spot part-way between death and a person’s final destination. Some who arrive are taken from the Waystation directly to their reward; some remain for a time, helping to run the Waystation and to provide comfort and refreshment for those passing through; and as expected, some are on a journey that none would enjoy.

Be warned, there is some violence in this book. Some of the characters are drug dealers, others are drug users/addicts, and some are in relationships with them. It is not a constant aspect of the story, but in this case, it is a necessary part and to have left it out would have done a disservice to the tale as a whole.

After an initial description of the Waystation and it’s current caretakers, we are dropped into the story of Cara, Tony, Rachel, & Marco. While each also has their own tale, these four have very intertwined stories throughout the book.

Tony is Cara’s boyfriend. He sells meth for Marco and has also begun taking steroids to help him “bulk up.” Unfortunately for Cara, the combination of the drugs and steroids makes him often quite unstable. When he loses his temper, he takes it out on her. Cara asks Rachel to talk to Marco (Tony’s supplier) in the hopes that Marco can calm him down. Unfortunately, this backfires and Rachel blames herself for what happens next.

The stories are all very intertwined, both before any of their deaths and through to what happens when they arrive at The Waystation and each begins the next portion of their journey. We also learn the tales of those who have been the caretakers at the Waystation for a while. As with my other reviews, I don’t want to go into more detail here because I believe you will enjoy reading those tales yourselves.

I did run across a few issues with typos while I was reading, but only a few and not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book. As you have probably guessed, I do not read a lot of religious themed books, though I did really enjoy reading this one. Too often such tales leave me feeling that the author was trying to beat me over the head with a religious theme, but I didn’t feel that way reading this book. While there is often a very religious theme within, it is so greatly intertwined with a well-written story that I enjoyed it. I would recommend giving this book a try, as the story it told had me hooked enough that I have already recommended it to several of my friends.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization" by Nancy Holder

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I chose to read and review the official movie novelization of the recent Wonder Woman movie. I have been a long-time Wonder Woman fan and have seen multiple versions of the character’s backstory, read and collected most of the Wonder Woman comic books, and collect just about anything related to the character that I can get my hands on. In other words, it was only a matter of time before I read this book.

One of the things I do enjoy about movie novelizations is that, as with any book, you get to see inside the characters heads in a way that you aren’t able to when watching the movie. In this case, we are able to learn from Diana’s thoughts what she thinks when she first meets Steve Trevor. We see her first impression of him, of his world when she returns to London with him, and their opinions of each other in greater detail than can be seen by simply watching the movie. There is much more depth to the characters that can be picked up by reading what they are thinking rather than just by watching their actions.

However one of the problems with movie novelizations is that often the book seems to have been rushed through the publishing process. In this case, it felt like the editing/proofreading did not receive as much attention as it needed to truly make the book great. A number of times typos and other errors made me pause in order to reread a passage or two. While the editing wasn’t too bad overall, I do wish more time and effort had been put into it. The book would have been much more enjoyable for me had there been fewer errors.

Normally I would go into a bit more detail about what happens within this book, but as popular the as the movie was I expect that many people have already watched it by now. As such, the only detail I could add in here that most folks aren’t already aware of would include the thoughts that the characters were having, but doing so would give away more of the story than I prefer. Hopefully, if you enjoyed the movie and want to know more of the details that they were forced to leave out, you will seek out this book. Even with the errors that I found while reading, I did enjoy it and was glad that I had taken the opportunity to read it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. It gives a very enlightening look at life in Washington, D.C. from shortly before Abraham Lincoln takes office and continues on for many years after his assassination. The story is told from the perspective of Elizabeth Keckley, a seamstress who was born into slavery but who had managed to purchase both her and her son’s freedom.

Elizabeth is a very talented and much sought after dressmaker who is brought to the attention of the newly-elected president’s wife Mary. She is hired to modify an older gown for Mrs. Lincoln to wear at the inaugural ball. Elizabeth understands that this is a test of her abilities before being offered the much sought after position as the First Lady’s Modiste. It is not long after that before a number of government officials return to their homes in the southern states and talk of secession begins.

During all of this time, we are given an inside look at life in the White House from the perspective of Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker. She is a hard worker and over the years becomes a good friend and confidant to Mary Lincoln and her family. She is there to see the good times and the tough times. We see Mr. Lincoln begining by trying to hold the United States together, and then through the more difficult times with a number of states voting to secede and form their own government, thus starting the civil war.

As this book is told from the perspective of a black woman, while there is mention of the battles that are fought during the war, we are not overwhelmed with combat tactics or the horrific results of many of those battles. Victories and losses are mentioned, but not described in great detail.

Over the years Mary Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley became more than just employer and employee, they developed a deep friendship and often relied upon each other for emotional support when times grew tough. After Mr. Lincoln’s assassination, Mary and her children leaned a great deal upon Elizabeth. Elizabeth was there for Mary Lincoln during the funeral of her husband, she was there for her to help pack the family’s belongings, and she was there to help them find a place to relocate to in Chicago. Elizabeth also did her best to help Mary adjust to her new circumstances and to help her to find a way to repay the debts she acquired while living as the First Lady and purchasing beyond her means. Even her husband hadn’t been aware of the extent of her debts before he was killed.

The author of this book clearly did a great deal of research on Elizabeth Keckley. When I started the book, I hadn’t realized that it was about a woman who truly existed and had even written her own memoir. This is a work of historical fiction told from Elizabeth’s point of view, but there is still a great deal of truth in the tale. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the time period or who wondered what life was like for a free black woman who had been born a slave as compared to the lives of the other women around her.

Firefax by A. M. Vergara

During the Revolutionary War, there are rumors of a city of gold that is hidden on an island whose location is known only to the Firefax fam...