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Review: Rapture of the Deep by David Grindberg

[ 2 ] August 27, 2014

BookCover-PhotoOrangeFrontReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

It is easy to make assumptions about people’s lives from only seeing what is projected, but there is no way of really knowing what happens at home or in their heads. David Grindberg’s Rapture of the Deep takes a look at two sets of couples who reveal a very different image to the world vs. what is really taking place behind closed doors. Grindberg’s words make the passions, secrets and feelings that no one likes to talk about jump off the page. The characters’ inner pains, ambitions and struggles are all starkly presented and belong to the reader as much as to the story.

The book begins with a tragedy as Jen Johnson is told that her husband Joe, affectionately called Puck, has died in a scuba diving accident in Mexico. The couple has been separated due to Jen’s drinking and inability to process the death of their newborn son but these details are not revealed until later in the story. Grindberg works in a flashback format, paired with scuba diving manual passages that help to break up the story that often switches viewpoints neatly. The truth about this tragedy is also revealed later on in the story.

Joe’s best friend is the high profile banker Tom Hyden who works at his family bank in their small Iowa town. Annie, his beautiful and intense wife, and his daughter Sophie lack for nothing, but they do not know that every night Tom is haunted by the staggering bills in his office that he is unable to pay. Tom and Joe carry their childhood bond into the hobby of scuba diving and stories of the trips they have taken are sprinkled throughout the story. The scuba diving acts as powerful symbolism for Grindberg’s exposure of the characters secrets; nothing can be kept at the bottom of the sea and even when you feel weightless, the world can still be heavy. The relationships and realizations that each married couple undergoes are truly trying and not even the strongest can emerge from the water unscathed.

Rapture of the Deep is an excellent read about the murkiness that can creep into life when it is least expected and how people handle it so very differently. The novel shows events at various times through the eyes of Tom, Joe, Annie and Jen and each provide an interesting perspective on family, success, life, love and hardship. Grindberg’s main characters are careful, composed and will make the reader feel their darkest secrets and pain with raw, but clear intensity.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com

Review copy was provided by David Grindberg. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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Review: Underworld’s Daughter by Molly Ringle

[ 0 ] August 28, 2014

perf5.000x8.000.inddReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Persephone and Hades, or Adrian and Sophie in the mortal lives, discovered the secret to immortality in their Underworld garden in Molly Ringle’s first book in the Chrysomelia series. Now, in Underworld’s Daughter, new immortals are being created for the first time in thousands and thousands of years. Unfortunately, Sophie has not had a chance to taste the delectable fruit of immortality. Thanks to Nikolaus, the trickster god, Tabitha and Zoe, her and Adrian’s best friends, have discovered their old immortal selves: Dionysos and Hekate. But Sophie is being left farther and farther behind, which means that mortality and the danger of the cult group, Thanatos, are getting closer and closer. Can her immortal friends, Gods of Ancient Greece, help her escape with her life? Or is she doomed to wait, yet again, and hope she has a chance or coming back for another try.

Thanatos is back in book two of the series, and just as deadly. They’re on the run from the police due to their past public behavior, but this doesn’t seem to bother them any. Sophie, Adrian, and all their friends must group together and outsmart the insane cult. But can they actually reason with the unreasonable?

I love the Greek gods and the mythologies that go along with them, so I was excited to start this series and, after the first book, come back for seconds. Unfortunately, I felt a little disappointed with this installment. I understand that it can be tricky to keep readers engaged while weaving the old Persephone and Hades story with the present storyline. Nevertheless, I found that I liked the original story much more than the story I felt was the “main” event. I think Ringle got stuck in the mud with this one, and it really broke my focus.

I also had an issue with the inclusion of Hades and Persephone’s logically progressing love life. I’m all for a good romance—I don’t even mind it getting hot and heavy—as long as it’s done correctly and doesn’t take away from the plot and characters. In this case, I think the “sexy” bits were tossed in just for the fun of it, and they just made me cringe. Not because they was crude or over the top… it was more like listening to a virgin make up a sexy story you know never actually really happened and just lets you know for sure that the speaker is, indeed, and actual virgin. Just didn’t work for me. At all.

The story ends rather abruptly, and I ended up putting the book down, wandering off, and wondering what just happened to me. I’m also confused by the title. We get a little more of Hekate, who is used by the author as the daughter of Persephone and Hades, thus the possible Underworld’s Daughter. Hekate gets a decent role in the story, and her back story is definitely fleshed out, but I wouldn’t call her a primary character for which titling a book usually makes sense. Anyways, I believe the series has potential, and I really did enjoy the first book. I’m hoping the second was just an awkward middle ground that can turn into a third story that really finishes it up in a fantastic way. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Central Avenue Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Flings by Justin Taylor

[ 1 ] August 27, 2014

9780062310156Please join Justin Taylor, author of Flings, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours.

Reviewed by Alisha Churbe

Taylor’s short story collection includes twelve short stories and comes in at just under 250 pages. It’s a larger collection compared to some. The stories are in-depth and focus on relationships between different characters. All of the relationships have extreme ups and downs and Taylor does a wonderful job of exploring every kind of ‘what-if’ scenario he can manage to throw at his characters. Taylor brings his characters to the brink of a decision. There are recent graduates flailing and trying to find what they should do with their lives, a widow who is sorting out being left alone and numerous encounters of couples trying to navigate through life (engagement, other lovers, cross-country moves).

In the title story, “Flings,” we are presented with a large cast of characters and tales of love that is usually misplaced. Taylor does not waste words on his characters’ physical descriptions, so the reader is forced to keep track of them merely by name and relationship to other characters in the story. It’s frustrating at first, but worth it if you stick it out. Taylor spends time deep within his characters; after getting used to his style, it becomes more understandable why he doesn’t bother showing us the outsides of his characters very much. The writing is very matter-of-fact and most of the stories are told as if you’re sitting next to the narrator at a bar–complete with stories of characters you’re unable to care about. The stories move at a very quick tempo.

Taylor’s collection is very well-written and the theme of decisions and consequences holds it together nicely and fits within the realm of all the title suggests. Flings shows us how random events can alter lives. Taylor presents his characters with tough choices and while some characters actually make decisions, others tend to let things happen to them and end up in random places due to their indecision and this can be frustrating, but it’s life and some characters choose indecision over action. The collection would be best for twenty-somethings (some drugs, sex, language) who may best relate to the characters in the stories.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Belle Cora by Philip Margulies

[ 2 ] August 26, 2014

17757954Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Very loosely based on a 19th century prostitute, Belle Cora is the remarkable story of one woman’s fight to live her own life on her own terms no matter what tragedies God or man throws at her. A woman of many names and many lives, Belle recounts her story to the reader as a memoir in order to give a clear and truthful account of her life and actions. She gives the many reasons she became the woman the world would come to see as a dangerous and powerful madam and whore. Pointing out the various occurrences that led her down her rather twisted, treacherous, and hard won path – from her parents’ deaths that forced her out of her sheltered life in New York City into an unloving, harsh, and religious farm life, to the vicious loss of her innocence, to a drive to live so strong she begins selling her body – Belle leaves nothing hidden for the first time in her life. And what a life! Rape, degradation, murder, losing the love of her life then finding him again just to lose him again…each new challenge and hurt adds on to the hard shell she builds around herself until she learns to hide her true self and to use her intelligence, cunning, courage, and natural beauty to become a very rich, very powerful, and independent woman.

The memoir style of the novel is absolutely perfect for the story, with Belle laying her life bare and even interrupting her own narrative to interact with the reader and explain that she understands what the reader might be thinking of her actions. Agreeing that she made mistakes and showing herself to be anything but perfect, the reader cannot help but feel for Belle and understand her choices even if they don’t agree with them. At times she is her own worst enemy, doing things that make you want to scream at her; this makes Belle wholly relatable. She is selfish, greedy, prideful, vengeful, and cruel at times but she can also be loving, giving, and remarkably understanding of the bad choices of others. By the end of this very long story (just over six hundred pages!), I had forgotten that this wasn’t a real memoir… it just felt so authentic!

On the downside, Belle Cora felt like a book that is six hundred pages. It wasn’t a fast read and at times felt like it was giving too much time to particular points in her very long life. I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to rush through the heavy details to get to the next part. I should point out, however, that I am not typically a fan of memoirs for this exact reason, so it could just be me. There were aspects of the novel that pulled me out of Belle’s story as well, dealing with the politics, scandals, and real life historical figures of the time that sometimes felt like they were added as reference points and wouldn’t necessarily be items that a person would spend so much time when recounting their own life story. In the grand scheme of the novel, these are minor problems but are still things to note.

Bell Cora – both the fictionalized woman and the novel – is fascinating, and anyone interested in a no-holds-barred account of what it was to be an independent and intelligent yet flawed woman of this time will find much to enjoy. I was astounded at how genuine the whole story felt and at how much I was able to feel for a woman making so many bad choices. I have no doubt other readers will feel the same. If you enjoy historical fiction it is definitely worth the read!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Bianca’s Vineyard by Teresa Neumann

[ 2 ] August 26, 2014

51uuQM0yzDLPlease join Teresa Neumann, author of Bianca’s Vineyard, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

I am a lover of historical fiction. Give me a book about almost any time period in history and I will enjoy it. I especially look for authors who put a lot of work into detail, as Teresa Nuemann has done here with Bianca’s Vineyard. The cover itself draws you in before you’ve even had time to discover the plot. Believe me, if you like stories based on real life, this is one book you do not want to miss.

True to the title,  the story revolves around Bianca. While the book opens in 2001, we are quickly whisked back to 1913 and the beginnings of a long and difficult journey for our heroine. Enter Egisto, Bianca’s uncle, who is getting ready to sail to America from Ripa. His family wants him married to a woman in the Church, but Egisto wants to marry outside the church. His brothers give him some drunken wisdom and while in a bar, he dances with a stranger. Egisto makes a split second decisions and asks this woman, Armida, to marry him. And to his surprise, she accepts. They set sail for America the next day.

The book goes from day-to-day descriptions to skipping parts which span several years. That would be my main problem–I like more of a daily chapter kind of book.  Nevertheless, Bianca’s Vineyard is very well written. While I was somewhat confused when the story skipped from Egisto and his bride sailing to America to them living in Minnesota 10 years later, it was not too hard to deal with.

The characters are so well developed I almost felt the pain of Armida as she realizes that she wasn’t Egisto’s first love and that he might still love the other woman. Egisto goes through so much and don’t even get me started on the children. The scenery is so realistic I could almost feel the sun and smell the grapes in the vineyard. I loved the historical details especially as they pertained to the Fascist aspect of World War II. Overall, a poignant novel based on a true story that will likely interest history lovers.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

Review and giveaway copies were provided by All’s Well House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

[ 2 ] August 25, 2014

16125281Reviewed by Sara Drake

Eleanor of Aquitaine stands out from the history of the Middle Ages. She had land, money, power, and intelligence. She continues to fascinate historians, writers, and readers due to her two marriages, two crowns, and her determination to live the life she wanted regardless of societal barriers. I’ve read any book about her that I could get my hands on with an interest that goes back to childhood. So, I had to pick up Ms. Chadwick’s latest book on one of my favorite time periods.

For those unfamiliar with her (and without giving away too much), Eleanor grew up in the times of the Crusades. European monarchs ruled over unruly nobles and the Catholic Church united them under one common belief system. Women held no power and gained little respect from the men around them. Yet, women could inherit land and titles, depending on the country and territory, though their husbands tended to end up with both. Against this background, Eleanor grew into a woman who shaped the history and culture of two nations.

Ms. Chadwick brings Eleanor (Alienor) alive in The Summer Queen, the first book of a new trilogy. The number of hostile original sources (men of the time who wrote a variety of rumor, innuendo, and scandal about her) offer a challenge to any author who takes on Eleanor as a topic. When it comes to any historical figure’s sex life, no one will ever know the truth. The power of historical fiction, when done well, is that it allows an author to create a personality and offer possible explanations for the events for the past. Ms. Chadwick did this well.

Of all the things I enjoyed about this book, I appreciated Ms. Chadwick’s restraint when it came to romance. The royalty of the Middle Ages did not marry for love. Over the years, Eleanor has become a romantic figure, with authors creating a passionate love story from the details of her life. I think Ms. Chadwick’s version comes closer to the reality as it must have been and am always glad to come across a writer who can resist love-at-first-sight story lines.

However, without a strong romantic story line, the book lacked a strong unifying plot. I know this is a frequent challenge in historical fiction, after all real lives don’t come with strong plots and neat endings. I found The Summer Queen slow in parts and easy to put down. As a reader, I wanted more dramatic tension to pull me from chapter to chapter. Toward the end, I kept thinking “okay, this is a great place to end” but discovered the story was going just a little further.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will read the next two in the series. For fans of historical fiction, Ms. Chadwick adds a solid contribution to the genre.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sourcebooks Landmark. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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