Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham

tumbleweekds

4/5

Eleven year old Catherine Ann Benson is whisked away from her privileged, wealthy home after her parents were killed in a car accident. She only has one family member left who is willing to give her a home, her paternal grandmother Emma Benson. Emma Benson lives in a small Texas town called Kersey. Her modest house is on the opposite side of the spectrum that Catherine Ann was accustomed to. Her less than extravagant home was only part of her worries because her granddaughter, whom she has never me, has gone temporarily mute.

Before bringing her granddaughter to her new home Emma went to her longtime friend for a favor. Mabel Church was in Emma’s situation about seven years ago. Mabel’s nephew, Trey Don Hall, was left on her doorstep abandoned by both of his parents. Emma’s favor involved Mabel’s nephew and his best friend, John Caldwell. She asked them to watch out for Catherine Ann on her first day at her new school. At first the boys were apprehensive, but once they caught their first glances at the young blonde haired, blue eyed new girl their minds changed. As the two “leaders” of the sixth grade Trey and John were well loved by the teachers, envied by the boys, and sought after by the girls. Even at eleven years old both the boys were handsome, intelligent, and incredible at football. All of these attributes followed them into their high school careers.

It didn’t take long for Cathy, as she preferred to be called, John, and Trey to become an inseparable threesome. By the time they were in their last years of high school they already had the rest of their lives planned out. The three planned to go to the University of Miami. Trey and John planned to go to the school on a sports scholarship and play for the Miami Hurricanes while Cathy would get an academic scholarship and participate in the school’s medical program. Everything seemed perfectly planned, but when do plans ever pan out just the way they are envisioned?

Tumbleweeds follows Cathy, John, and Trey on their tumultuous journeys through their life until their early forties. Even though their teenaged years breezed by almost with a hitch, their adult years are filled with drama that involve; lying, cheating, and even murder. Along with the main trio the characters in this novel are easily likable and are easy to become attached to. The plot can be a little a little dry at first, but it does become immensely captivating. Leila Meacham’s first novel that does not take place in the world showcased in her successful novel, Roses, is a fantastic novel about how the slightest change can shift one’s entire world.

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Book Review: The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

the dante club

3/5

The Dante Club is a historical fiction novel set in Boston after the Revolutionary War. This bustling city has been jolted to a screeching halt when one of the men of higher standing is brutally murdered. Judge Healy was due to be away from his home. His wife was expecting him to be away from home for four days. A few days after the Judge left his maid noticed a swarm of red eyed flies buzzing around a particular window. She followed the swarm of flies to the naked body of Judge Healy. His head had been busted in and was covered in a maggots, flies, and wasps. The Boston police are completely baffled at the gruesome murder.

It isn’t until another man of higher standing is brutally murdered that the five members of the Dante Club become involved. The Dante Club consists of five members; each member is called by their last name throughout the novel: Longfellow a poet and a professor at Harvard, Lowell a writer and a professor at Harvard, Howell, a doctor and writer, Fields, a publisher, and Green, a doctor. Longfellow started the group for the purpose of translating Dante’s Inferno from Italian into English. Each week he and the other members take one canto of the poem at a time to interpret. When the group gets word of the murders they realize in horror that the murders are exact copies of the horrors that they translate from Inferno. In order to make sure that the murders aren’t traced back to the innocent Club, the members take it upon themselves to try and find the murderer.

Although the identity of the murderer comes as a complete surprise, the novel itself has a lot of ‘filler’ pages; a series of background information that didn’t necessary pertain to the main plot and was only inserted to make the novel longer. The dialogue was also a bit repetitive. The Dante Club members talk to each other by using the phrase, “my dear Longfellow, etc”.

There is a reader’s guide section in the back of the novel where Matthew Pearl answers some questions about his work. One of the questions brings up the gruesomeness of the novel’s murders. For some readers who aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno, but there are a lot of gory scenes depicting hellish scenes as the main character descends further into Hell. In my senior year of high school, I did read parts of Inferno so I was familiar with some of the torture that would have been featured in the novel. Those who aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno may find the murders in The Dante Club extremely disturbing.

Book Review: The Observations by Jane Harris

observe

5/5

The Observations starts on a dusty road in Scotland where a 15 year old Irish girl is traveling. The young girl, named Bessy Buckley, has just left her previous employer and is looking for new work. Her previous employer, the old Mr. Levy, has passed away, leaving his distant brother to handle all of the affairs of his estate, wealth, and his servants. Mr. Levy’s brother was none too thrilled to discover that someone from such a degenerate background would be mixed up in such a prestigious household. With no job and no home, Bessy’s initial idea was to head to the city of Glasgow to find work, but her plans come to a halt when she passes a house where a lady is chasing a loose pig.

Bessy is a character with strong curiosity that is, at times, relentless and is unable to ignore the situation. She helps the woman secure the rebellious pig into its pen. The woman, who introduces herself as Mrs. Reid, is very grateful for the help. She inquires about Bessy’s current situation. When Bessy explains that she is looking for work Mrs. Reid perks up. After asking a few personal questions such as inquiring whether Bessy can read and write, Bessy turns back on her way. Suddenly Mrs. Reid call for her to wait, she has a proposition for the young girl. She proposes that Bessy come to work for her as a maid. The two come to terms in regards to wages until Bessy agrees.

Working for Arabella Reid turns out to be an odd experience; and experience that Bessy was not expecting. On her first night, Mrs. Reid wakes up her new maid in the wee hours of the morning in anger. She barks at Bessy to meet her in the kitchen. Horrified that she had somehow done something wrong in the few hours had had been in the Reid home, Bessy quickly dresses and rushes into the kitchen where her ‘missus’ was sitting at the small table, waiting. Amazingly, her good nature has returned. It was as though a flip was switched. A few other events follow were her behavior was odd and as stunned as Bessy was, she couldn’t help but strive to please her ‘missus’.

On a rare occasion where both Mr. and Mrs. Reid were away for the evening, Bessy takes the time to do a little snooping. She had noticed that Mrs. Reid keeps a small key on her person and she has a hunch that the key opens a drawer in Mrs. Reid’s desk. Locked away in the drawer, Bessy discovers a manuscript entitled “The Observations”. She discovers that Mrs. Reid is writing a book on how to find the perfect servant. There are years of different types of research that Mrs. Reid as written about. Can a potential employer determine if a servant will be of high standards by just looking at physical aspects, such as the length of their arms or the turn of their nose? Baffled, Bessy turns to the last few pages to find out what Mrs. Reid has written about her. She is horrified to find that her section is entitled “The Most Particular Case of a Low Prostitute.”

Bessy Buckley is one of the most outspoken characters that I have ever come across. She has the spunk of a girl who has been through so much negativity and is unsure how to act around those who are wealthy. After being exposed to the raunchy acts of a streetwalker at the tender age of nine, by none other than her own mother, she has been forced to grow up without having the chance to have a childhood. She acknowledges that she had always known that her mother’s ‘profession’ was wrong and holds great shame of her not too distant past. Although those thoughts come from a character is mature, there are some instances in the novel where her young age shines through her tough exterior. After discovering that her ‘missus’ doted on a maid who was in her service before Bessy, she decides to pull some seemingly harmless pranks on her employer that take a turn for the worse.

The Observations by Jane Harris was a refreshing change from the last two novels that I’ve posted about. A novel filled with dark pasts, unhinged minds, and mystery make for an entertaining read. Written in her point of view, Bessy is an easily likable character and leaves the reader yearning to know what she will do next.

Struggling Through Reading a Novel: The Little Book by Seldon Edwards

the little book

I always try my hardest to finish a book even if I don’t get immersed or interested. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish The Little Book. By the 200th page I was completely bored; bored with the characters, the writing, and even the plot which had originally pulled me to buy the book. I stopped reading with about 200 pages left. I couldn’t motivate myself to try to finish. Where I left off the plot seemed to fizzle out to a snail’s pace. I had become so bored that I wasn’t even interested to see how the main character traveled back in time.

This will definitely go on the ‘donate’ pile.

Have any of you read this novel? If you have, what did you think?

Book Review: The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

the library of shadows

After the mysterious death of Luca Campelli, the owner of an antique bookstore Libre de Luca, his son John inherits the beloved bookstore. John hasn’t seen or been in contact with his father in fifteen years. The two had a falling out after John’s mother died. John is greeted at his father’s funeral by Iverson, his father’s closest friend and business partner. John is surprised at how many people attended his father’s funeral; he didn’t realize how well the antique book selling was going for his father. After the funeral John, Inverson, and a red-haired woman who helped at the bookshop, by the name of Katherine, returned to the empty Libre de Luca. Iverson then begins to tell John about the Lectors and the receivers

In Mikkel Birkegaard’s debut novel there are two types of readers, Lectors and receivers. Lectors are those who can captivate listeners by simply reading aloud. They can influence the text by enhancing the author’s words. Only the best Lectors can actually change the visions listeners see in their head. They can also charge the books that they read. Charged books can be felt as soon as a person touches them, almost like an electric shock. On the other hand, receivers can actually enhance the mood of the reader. They can hear what readers are reading and to a small extent they can actually see what other people are reading.

. Understandably he has a difficult time believing everything. Iverson than explains that since Luca was a powerful Lector, John probably had extraordinary powers as well. However, these powers could only be harnessed by performing an activation ceremony. It was up to John whether he wanted to be activated or not. After a series of add events such as: an attack on the shop, John being pressured to sell the shop, and then he loses his job as a respected lawyer, he decides to become activated. During his activation it becomes clear that he is extremely powerful. Not only be he influence the text to whatever his liking, but sparks of electricity emit from his body if he goes too far. In some situations these surges can be deadly.

Once John is completely immersed in this new life, a life that his father was deeply involved with, members of this close knit community start being murdered. Iverson fears that the murders are being done by the Shadow Organization, an organization of Lectors and receivers looking to abuse their power. John soon discovers that the Shadow Organization has influenced many political and public figures throughout history to gain more power. Once they get word of John’s extraordinary powers, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes their next target. John must uncover the secrets of the Shadow Organization in order to save his new friends, even if it means deciphering whether or not his parent’s deaths were in fact, murders.

The plot in The Library of Shadows flows very nicely. The first chapter catches the reader’s attention and leaves them wanting to find out what happens next. Shortly after John attends his father’s funeral an air of suspense becomes the prominent feeling. Along with John, the reader discovers that there’s a traitor within the Lectors who is feeding information to the Shadow Organization. The traitor is fairly simple to determine, but their motives aren’t fully discovered until closer to the end of the novel. The novel’s biggest shortcoming is the ending. There is the classic cliché of good vs evil where the villain becomes completely over the top. This change of character came on suddenly and seems dot of place considering the antagonist had been working in the shadows throughout the majority of the novel. The ending comes abruptly after the final confrontation leaving the reader to wander what happens next, especially since there seemed to be some plot points that hadn’t been completed.

Book Review: The Lightkeeper’s Bride by Colleen Coble

the mercy falls collection

3/5

The Lightkeeper’s Bride continues where the The Lightkeeper’s Daughter left off. Instead of following Addie’s story the focus turns to her new friend, Katie Russell. While at work, Katie is a phone operator, she accidently overhears an argument at her friend, Eliza’s. After hearing the argument and a mysterious noise Katie becomes fearful for her friend’s safety. She rushes to Eliza’s house, meeting Addie on the way. The two of them arrive at Eliza’s house to find the door unlocked and a strange man watching over Eliza’s baby daughter, Jennie.

Katie is not a woman to shy away from conflict. She demands the man to tell her the whereabouts of Eliza. Taken by surprise the stranger introduces himself as Will Jeperson. He explains that he is the new lighthouse keeper and called on Eliza for his brother, Phillip. Will arrived at the house to receive no answer, but he heard the baby crying. Finding the door unlocked he had gone in. There was neither sign of Eliza nor a sign of struggle. The woman is just gone. While waiting for the Constable to arrive, Katie and Addie searched Eliza’s home looking for any clues that could show what had happened. No clues were recovered.

Katie notices immediately the resemblance between the strange young and the toddler. Will denies the parentage when she voices her suspicion. After the Constable arrives and concludes his own search, Katie asks what should be done with young Jennie. The Constable states that since a terrible fire has destroyed the orphanage, Jennie will have to be places in a foster home until they locate her mother. Both Will and Katie insist on taking the girl in their care. Will believes that Jennie is his younger brother’s child. He claims that she is the spitting image of Phillip. Despite Katie’s protests Will is given temporary custody of the little girl.

In a series of unfortunate events involving multiple attacks on her life, an outbreak of small pox, and a small band of pirates commandeering multiple ships close to the shore, Katie finds herself temporarily housed at the lighthouse with Will and little Jennie. Similar to The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, it’s plainly obvious that Will and Katie will fall in love. Even with a minor love triangle involving Will and a wealthy young man picked out by her parents, Katie and Will’s love can withstand anything. Their love story was almost exactly the same as Addie’s and John’s. After a few meetings they feel that spark that they can’t explain and each time they’re in contact they push their blossoming feelings aside in a not so subtle manner. Even the plot of a pirate invasion gets put into the love story and how these two have never felt this strange feeling before.

As mentioned in the previous review on The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, Colleen Coble’s writing style is simple. The simplicity continues in this novel. These novels are perfect for a guilty pleasure read, a read where no thought is needed. The characters have no depth, even the ones who have dark secrets. It seems as though they have these secrets solely for adding something more to this love story. However, Katie can be praised for being a strong, independent woman. Something that was not common in the early 1900s. She’s quick to take charge of any situation, even those that may cost her to lose her life.

Book Review: The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Colleen Coble

the mercy falls collection

3.5/5

Addie Sullivan has lived at the lighthouse near Crescent City since she was two years old. She has helped her mother and her father, who died a few years previously, take care of the lighthouse duties. Her simple world turns upside down when a man, Walter Driscoll, claiming to be her uncle stumbled to their door. He tells Addie and her mother that he believes that Addie is his niece Julia who had supposedly drowned twenty three years ago while aboard a sinking ship. He is taken aback at her resemblance to his sister who had also perished in the sea the same time as her daughter. He then proceeds to explain that her birth father, Henry Eaton, is alive and very wealthy. Walter would love to reunite father and daughter.

Addie, overcome with emotion, grasps the locket around her neck; a memento she’s had since she was two years old. Walter stares in shock at the locket before asking her to open it. Addie complies telling him that the woman’s picture inside is of her grandmother. Josephine, the woman Addie has always called ‘mother’ interferes once Walter identifies the woman in the locket to be his mother. Addie demands to know the truth, has the life she’s been living a lie? With a scowl, Josephine goes into her late husband’s study to retrieve a small metal box. She reveals that twenty one years ago her husband discovered a little girl washed up on the beach. He spent a lot of his free time researching the ship disaster to try and find out who this little girl was. She also told them that an unknown benefactor was giving them a sum of money every month to keep Addie.

After hearing Josephine’s side of the story, Walter proposes that Addie come to the Eaton household posed as a teacher for Henry’s young grandson only until Walter could gather more proof that Addie is actually Julia Eaton. Once Addie enters the Eaton’s immaculate household she realizes that this decision to enter the Eaton family was a dangerous one. Not long after she arrives, her uncle was attacked, she was almost kidnapped, and Henry’s grandson is snatched away from playing outside on the lawn. These attacks only fuel her determination to find out about her new family.

Colleen Coble’s writing style is very simple. Her sentences are quite short; not complex at all. At some points the writing can sometimes be sophomoric especially when there are romantic scenes. Addie falls completely in love with the first man she meets, which ironically is her late sister’s husband. As their relationship strengthens the two fall head over heels in love. The dialogues in the romantic scenes are very sappy. The two profess their love for each other when they know nothing about each other; it can be a bit irritating to read because of the overly fluffy dialogue.

Although the dialogue can be overly romantic and sophomoric, there are some really intriguing parts of the novel, especially with danger stalking at every corner. It soon becomes apparent that not everyone in the Eaton family can be trusted.