Saturday, October 6, 2018

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets by Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of SecretsBoston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets by Madeleine Holly-Rosing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Steampunk is defined by the Oxford University Press as “A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.” I've only read one other book in this genre, but I find this “what if” concept fascinating.

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets is set in nineteenth century Boston, but in a version of our world where our country (the “Great States of America”) is run by large family owned industries. This economic/political system has resulted in a class oriented society, which is bigoted, but probably less so than the actual nineteenth century America.

This steampunk version of America is further complicated because Elizabeth Weldsmore Hunter (the novel's heroine) experiences visions she doesn't understand. Elizabeth's husband, Samuel Hunter, introduces her to an Irish medium, who helps her understand how to control these visions and leads her to otherworldly experiences worthy of the novel's title.

Elizabeth is a strong willed woman, trying to discover the person she is, independent of the legacy she was born to. The story is about her relationships with her father, her husband, and others around her. She fights to make the right choices and to help people she cares about. But she has her own set of flaws, including a tendency to act in impulsive ways and to keep secrets she should share.

The characters are strong. There are multiple plots, which come together at the end to produce a fascinating story. And the tension builds throughout the novel. Towards the end, I had trouble putting the book down.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

BarefootBarefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Barefoot, although it wasn't the light, beach read I expected. It's the story of three women in their early to mid thirties who travel to Nantucket to escape from their problems. These problems capture a wide range of middle age issues: career, money, marriage, motherhood, health, and, of course, their relationships with each other. The women are often self-centered, which is understandable given the seriousness of the issues they face. They do, however, support each other when they are needed.

Vickie and Brenda are sisters, while Melanie is a friend of Vickie's, invited to the summer cottage to distract her from thoughts of her husband's infidelity. For this reason, Melanie is not as close to either of the other women and even makes an attempt to leave the island.

I liked the way the character flaws of the women made them seem real. But Josh was different. He was the only major male character, a college sophomore who took a summer job babysitting for Vickie's two sons. His relationships with all three women and with Vickie's two sons grow as the summer goes on. He is reliable, caring, and always thoughtful, regardless of his role as a caretaker, an employee, a friend, or a summer fling. Yet, he seems unrealistically mature in his relationships, especially with the boys. This is compounded by the personality of his high school girl friend, who keeps showing up at odd times. The Josh we get to know would never have stayed with Dee Dee for any length of time.

Still, the women are wonderfully complex and interesting. This was the first Elin Hilderbrand novel I've read and I intend to read more.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Convenient Death by Laurel Heidtman

A Convenient Death (An Eden Mystery)A Convenient Death by Laurel Heidtman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Convenient Death is a mystery set in a small, college town in Kentucky. Two bodies, an elderly man, Kenneth Griswold, and the store clerk, Tracy Andrews, are found in the backroom of a convenience store. They've both been shot. The ballistics report shows the bullets came from a single gun, but the murder weapon is not found in any of the logical dumping grounds.

Jo Valentine, a detective in the Eden Police Department, is assigned the case. She soon finds something unusual about these murders. Tracy had an overactive sex life with lots of emotional baggage and Kenneth had his own set of secrets. These issues, along with the setting, a convenience store during the night shift, provide Jo with an enormous list of suspects. The problem is too many people with reasons to kill.

A Convenient Death is a well written novel and one that is hard to put down. The characters care for each other and worry about their personal lives. They act like people normally do in work environments, sometimes getting along well, sometimes not. The dialogue is well constructed with banter that is believable for a police department. There's also a good deal of tension throughout the book, not only through confrontations with suspects, but also with office politics.

This is an excellent book for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Nights Arose by Andrea Roche

Nights AroseNights Arose by Andrea Roche
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nights Arose is a good vs. evil story centered in 17th century Jamaica, but spreading out as far as the Sea of Marmara in Turkey. The novel is filled with magic on both sides: power to transform people into animals, power to witness events in the past, power to make oneself invisible, power to create great storms, and many others. These powers go head to head like opposing armies on a battlefield, increasing in page-turning intensity as the book moves on.

The “good” is represented by Nessarose (Arose) Du Mouchelle, a young woman blessed with exceptional talents - enhanced by the magic of a gem stone given to her by Bess, a gypsy woman. “De spirit of de stone will protec' you always.” The “evil” is represented by Morel, a Voodoo priestess, whose power seems to grow with each paragraph. Her goal is to steal the powerful gem and use it for her own purposes.

What I enjoyed the most about this novel is that it is not only a fantasy about a war between good and evil, but also Arose's coming of age story. This young woman is able to send her spirit into the astral plane, and, from there, witness events she has already lived. We get to see her youth, as she competes with her friends and first meets her Uncle's valet, who will turn out to be important to her. We also get to see her awakening sexuality, which happens in a beautifully written vision:

Her center started to ache. She thought of how liquid his movements were. How each movement, once begun, tumbled imperceptibly to the next, cascading as water would over rocks in a stream...She wanted him; she wanted his strong arms around her.

I recommend this novel for fans of well written fantasy.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

What Angels Fear by C S Harris

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr, #1)What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What Angels Fear is a fast paced historical thriller written by C. S. Harris and a fun read.

This book is the first in a series of novels about a nineteenth century, aristocrat in London, named Sebastian St. Cyr (or Lord Devlin). Sebastian has an array of talents which help him deal with violent opponents, including sensitive hearing and eyesight. He is also blessed with athletic abilities he uses to escape from his opponents when he can. Sebastian St. Cyr seems like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Batman, but if you're looking for a light read and a page turner, this is a good thing.

I enjoyed the characters surrounding Sebastian. In some ways they are cliché, a rich father who has trouble communicating, a wily young boy who attaches himself to our hero, and a beautiful actress who loves Sebastian, but doesn't feel worthy of him. Yet there is depth to these characters and as we discover the details of their lives we understand the ways they are unique. I believe Harris' choices work well.

I also enjoyed the picture of 19th century London this author created, complete with the stench of the polluted Thames and the effect of the class system on the lives of ordinary people.

I intend to read other books in this series

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

The Kommandant's Girl (The Kommandant's Girl, #1)The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Kommandant's Girl is a World War II novel set in Poland. The main character, Emma, is a jew who hides in plain sight by switching her name to Anna and taking on the identity of a gentile. Her husband, an active member of the resistance has arranged this opportunity to keep her safe and to protect the young son of a prominent Rabbi who also poses as a gentile.

But Emma/Anna is soon offered an opportunity to work for the local Nazi Kommandant. Working with her enemy will be dangerous, yet the opportunity is too good to pass. She might be able to use her new position to collect important information. This chance is even more important because her parents are living and suffering in the Jewish ghetto.

It soon becomes clear that Emma's boss is attracted to her. This presents a much greater opportunity for the resistance and a difficult choice for Emma. Should she allow her relationship with the Kommandant to move from business to romance? If she betrays her husband, she might discover something that would help the cause and perhaps even save his life. Yet, would Emma's infidelity be more than Jacob would willingly sacrifice? And what about her own feelings? It didn't help that Emma was drawn to the Kommandant, despite his role in the Nazi atrocities.

The strength of Pam Jenoff's novel lies in Emma's dilemma. Under normal circumstances, her values would lead her toward a quiet life of love and devotion to her husband. But the circumstances in war time Poland were far from normal.

Emma makes some decisions as the novel runs its course that are so stupid they lack credibility, but overall her character is well drawn and interesting. Her major decisions are dangerous, difficult and emotional, yet understandable. I love novels that keep me thinking after I've read them. The Kommandant's Girl is one of those.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Wanderling by Hannah Stahlhut

Wanderling (Spirit Seeker Book 1)Wanderling by Hannah Stahlhut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wanderling is an exciting YA novel about a seventeen year-old woman, Adala, and her younger brother, Shem. They live in the city of Gerstadt, in the empire of Bolgir. This is a society that has reached a time when people sail the sea under wind power and fight battles with knives, swords, and bows and arrows. They are a privileged society, but a brutal one, banishing anyone found guilty of a crime to the surrounding desert and never allowing them or their descendants to return. The banished people have formed into tribes which compete for the meager resources in the desert.

Adala and her brother are forced to leave their home for a village of banished people when Shem's unique skills are revealed. Shem is kidnapped and Adala follows him. The plot is about Adala's efforts to protect her brother, but also about her relationships and dreams. She is a trained, efficient warrior, but also an emotional teenager.

The land of Gerstadt and the people who reside there are carefully described with each detail having purpose and fitting into the plot like pieces of a puzzle. This is the first volume of a series (Spirit Seeker), so there are unanswered questions leading readers toward book 2. Yet Wanderling still stands on its own. It is a well-written, exciting novel with a carefully woven plot.

Steve Lindahl - author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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