Thursday, May 14, 2015

Crimson Queen and Black Pantha



~ Just picked up a beautiful red-leafed Japanese Maple called Crimson Queen.  Have been wanting to get one for the longest time.  Slowly working on the back garden, still a ways to go to make it that perfect secret garden I've always dreamed of.

~ Discovered a beautiful agapanthus called Black Pantha at the nursery the other day.  It's said to bloom with dark purple petals and a violet-black middle.  The flowers hadn't bloomed yet, so only got to see the plant with stems sticking out of it but looked up the plant images in Google.  All I could say was "wow!"  Hoping to acquire this lovely plant in the near future.

~ It's been raining half the day here in Southern California.  This drought-ridden state could certainly use the extra water.  There's nothing like the sound of raindrops....well, wind chimes are a close second place.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes

A mesmerizing new thriller from the author of Until You’re Mine

Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community. 

      Desperate for a vacation, Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher has just come to Radcote for a stay with her sister, Jo, but the atmosphere of the country house is unusually tense. Freddie, Jo's son, seems troubled and uncommunicative, and Jo is struggling to reach out to him. Meanwhile, Lorraine becomes determined to discover the truth behind these deaths. Are they suicides, or is there something more sinister at work? Finding answers might help Freddie, but they'll also lead to a shocking truth: whatever it is--or whoever it is--that's killing these young people is far more disturbing than she ever could have imagined, and unraveling the secret is just as dangerous as the secret itself. 

     Wicked, intense, and utterly compulsive, What You Left Behind confirms Samantha Hayes as a top thriller writer.


Review:  When I discovered that Samantha Hayes had written another mystery, I immediately jumped on the chance to read another novel by her.  I loved her previous novel, Until You're Mine and thought I would feel the same way about this new novel.  But as you know dear reader, not all books by one author will be enjoyed equally.  

I was a little disappointed with this book.  The plot was interesting and kept me reading on to find out what was causing all the suicides among young men.  However, the story was like a slow walk, dull in some areas, there was just too much conversation going on; not sure if so much dialogue was required.  There is action at the beginning of the story and near the end of the book things do start to pick up at a faster pace.

The characters were decent, the only character who really stuck out to me was Gil, the autistic and artistic brother-in-law of another character named Sonia who lost a son supposedly to suicide.  I enjoyed following DCI Lorraine Fisher again as she investigated the mystery of these deaths.

There is a well-played twist at the end of the story which I wasn't expecting or suspected, a great way to end the book but not quite enough to make me say that I loved the book.  

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

4/5

Friday, April 3, 2015

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

The brilliant, hauntingly beautiful, and assured second novel, twelve years in the making, from a writer whose previous novel Stay was a Globe "Top 100" pick, a finalist for the Amazon First Novel Award, and made into a feature film. 
     
When she was just fifteen, smart, sensitive Jane Standen lived through a nightmare: she lost the sweet five-year-old girl she was minding during a walk in the woods. The little girl was never found, leaving her family, and Jane, devastated. Now the grown-up Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As her one last project, she is searching the archives for scraps of information related to another missing person--a woman who disappeared some 125 years ago from a Victorian asylum. As the novel moves back and forth between the museum in contemporary London, the Victorian asylum, and a dilapidated country house that seems to connect both missing people, it unforgettably explores the repercussions of small acts, the power of affection, and the irrepressible vitality of everyday objects and events. 
     
Here is a rivetting, gorgeously written novel that powerfully reminds us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think.


Review:  I really, really wanted to love this book.  After reading the summary, I felt compelled to explore this novel; there was the mystery of two girls from different eras who had vanished in the same forest and the settings which included a Victorian manor/museum, an asylum, and the English countryside and woods.  Who wouldn't want to be transported into this gothic, enchanted mystery not to mention the gorgeous cover design.

The story is interesting but I found it difficult to follow along at times.  There are many characters to keep track of and at times I would have to pause at someone's name and try to remember who the heck this person was.  The unexpected turn are the ghosts who follow the main character, Jane, around.  At first you wonder how they fit into the story but then you discover who they are and why they are there.  You begin to feel for all of them, they can't quite remember who they are or what their real name is.  It is through discovery, bits and pieces of writing and places from the past, when the ghosts realize who they are.

Lots of unique details to take in, at times I felt like there was too much detail.  Although some museum pieces were fascinating to read about, it just seemed like overkill sometimes.  Because of this, the novel seemed monotonous to read and I didn't get that sensation that I couldn't wait to read the next chapter.  I only wanted to read the next chapter to possibly find out what happened to the two missing girls and actually who one of the girls was, since she was only listed in the asylum records as N.

I liked following Jane around as she traveled back to the village, the manor, the woods where it all happened.  There is even a little romance in the story which was refreshing.  I felt pained for her because of what happened when she was 15 and responsible for watching over one of the girls who ultimately went missing.  It is something that stayed with her for so long that it became a sad, unanswered part of her life, a terrible memory that could never be erased.

This is such an intricate, beautifully written novel.  You can tell that the author put tons of hours, hard work, and research into this book.  I just found it to be a bit too long in the details and the story seemed to drag at times.  However, I would still recommend this book to fans of gothic, mystery novels.  I received this book for free from blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Claudia Morgan-Brown finally has it all. Pregnant with a much-wanted first baby of her own, she has a happily established family of two small step-sons and a loving husband with a great career. But she is also committed to her full-time job as a social worker, and her husband travels often. So when Claudia hires Zoe to help her around the house in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But despite Zoe's glowing recommendations and instant rapport with the children, there's something about her that Claudia cannot trust.
 
Moreover, there has been a series of violent attacks on pregnant women in the area, and Claudia becomes acutely aware of her vulnerability. With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will be there to protect her? And why does she feel unsettled about Zoe? Realizing appearances can be deceiving even in her seemingly perfect world, Claudia digs deeper into Zoe’s blurry past and begins to wonder – how far would someone go to have a child of her own?
 
Riveting from its very first pages, Until You’re Mine is a multilayered masterwork of twisted, psychological suspense. Readers of Before I Go to Sleep and Turn of Mind will be enthralled by this multilayered novel, featuring a twisted plot that ends in a breathtaking and shocking finale.


Review:  I wanted to take my time reading this book because I didn't want to miss anything, being a psychological thriller, sometimes I feel that clues get missed when speedily reading through each chapter.  Everything said and actions taken by various characters were all slowly digested, but you know what, I still did not expect the surprise twist at the end of the book. The author does a great job (at least to me) of fooling the reader into thinking the killer is this certain character, and it turns out that she isn't and also isn't who you think she is or pretending to be.  This is an intricate story that is masterfully laid out by the author.  I noticed some very low ratings for this book on Goodreads, some people thought the plot was so unlikely while others thought it was predictable.  I disagree completely.  

Each character's story was interesting, from Claudia the social worker to Zoe the nanny and Lorraine the police investigator; the dialogue was true to life and easy to follow.  You get sucked into each character's life and don't want to leave until you find out what's happened.  It's not until you near the end of the book that one or two chapters will leave you scratching your head because you don't know who is speaking, but it's intended to be that way, the mystery of trying to find out who this person is and what their twisted mind is planning.  I went back and read these two particular chapters when I finally realized who was who and it was shocking!  Also, the very last line of the book is chilling and such a perfect ending.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and suspense.  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

5/5

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows.  Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world.  Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness.  Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend.  All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had. 

Kenneth Calhoun has written a brilliantly realized and utterly riveting depiction of a world gripped by madness, one that is vivid, strange, and profoundly moving.


Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I selected it from Blogging for Books.  The plot seemed unique and a nice departure from the norm.  And boy was it anything but normal.  I admire the change in scenery from this book.  I never stopped to wonder what society would be like if people weren't sleeping....at all.  This book does a great job of exploring that question.  People aren't able to sleep, they start to slowly unravel, become highly agitated until they explode into these violent, homicidal maniacs.  Their words don't make any sense; they are basically losing their minds and dying in the process.  

Biggs seems to be one of the main characters.  The book starts out with him searching through a pharmacy, looking for sleeping pills for his wife Carolyn who can't seem to sleep. Then the book progresses into other stories featuring Chase, Lila, and Felicia.  Personally, I felt that Biggs' story was the dullest in the book, I was much more interested in what was going on with the others.  Chase's adventures are memorable, especially his driving episode with dozens of sheep riding along in the back.  Lila's character tears at your heartstrings, a teenager who has lost her entire family and is left wandering around wearing an owl mask as a sort of shield against the world around her.  Then there is Felicia, who is Chase's ex-girlfriend who leaves her secure surroundings at a sleep clinic in Malibu to meet up with Chase when she realizes that she still cares for him despite their earlier issues.

Overall, a smooth, witty, unnerving read, with dashes of great simile and metaphor thrown in by the author.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian, surreal, and thrillers.  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

4/5

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Three Poems Posted at Dead Snakes

~ Great news this morning from editor Stephen Jarrell Williams of Dead Snakes poetry journal.  He accepted three of my poems, Cold and Damp, Free Fall into Forget, and Flutter House.  The poems are now live at Dead Snakes, a journal that accepts work showcasing both the bitter and the sweet, according to the guidelines.