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Review: Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James

[ 4 ] April 23, 2014

18114136Reviewed by Nina Longfield

Portis House was once a manor house at the edge of the land and is now home to over a dozen shell-shocked former soldiers of the Great War. The house is isolated from any neighbors or nearby communities. It is to Portis House where a young woman, Katharine (Kitty) Weekes, runs away to after being hired on as a nurse. Kitty is a mystery and guards her secrets well. From her entry into the private hospital, she quickly discovers everyone at Portis House seems to hide their own secrets. Such is the beginning of Simone St. James’ mesmerizing novel, Silence for the Dead.

Silence for the Dead begins seemingly slow. The reader is aware from the outset that Kitty Weekes is hiding a mystery. I was anxious to know what it was that Kitty was running from and what was so bad that she ran to an isolated mental hospital. St. James craftily creates tension from the first page of her novel and builds upon that pressure throughout. I drifted from curiosity as to Weekes’ intentions to a desire to understand why any of these characters hide at Portis House. Even the patients housed at the hospital appear to be in hiding.

As I pondered the intentions of each character, I also worried for some. Nurse (Martha) Beachcombe appears young and naïve. Nurse (Nina) Shouldice is guarded and uses her weariness as a shield. The patients also have their vulnerabilities. Archie Childress befriends, in a way, Nurse Kitty Weekes and introduces her vicariously to the patients and staff of Portis House, but Archie has periods of anti-social tendencies. Captain Mabry seems outwardly stable but is prone to fits according to the staff. Each of the patients grows in depth as the reader delves into each man’s nature. Then there is the mystery of Patient Sixteen who seems to be the most curious of the group; he is a man secreted away and only those with clearance can see him.

St. James expertly weaves the stories of her characters together with overlaying hints of mystery and menace. The atmosphere of Silence for the Dead is saturated with an eeriness that pervades both Portis House and its grounds. There are noises in the walls. Things are falling apart. The kitchen staff will not go into the dark corners of the basement where the coal is stored. The patients’ nights are increasingly interrupted by dreams. Through it all, Kitty Weekes is inquisitive despite her own forewarnings and seeks the answers to the riddles haunting all at Portis House.

Silence for the Dead is an engrossing read. St. James’ novel is vivid, atmospheric, and well written. It grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. This was an entertaining novel that satisfied my need for a good story mixed with a deep mystery.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

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

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Review: A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

[ 1 ] April 22, 2014

BOOK2_500x800px_72dpi-p18m7ilic3it91huh2da1p11n9i (2)Reviewed by Nina Longfield

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger begins with a perfect day. The narrator and main character, Charlotte (Charley) Lambert, is in control of her life and most everything associated with her life. She is a driven communications executive at a pharmaceutical corporation about to release a world altering breakthrough medication. She volunteers at a local animal shelter. She is learning a new language to further her career. She eats only healthy foods and jogs daily. She celebrates her friends’ achievements into the wee hours then forgoes sleep to plan. Her life revolves around her ability to plan. Charlotte is the quintessential planner. She is, as she calls herself, “Charley Lambert, the Scottish Amazon” and is capable of accomplishing any challenge she attempts.

In her novel, A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger, Lucy Robinson has created a surprisingly sympathetic character in Charlotte Lambert. Charlotte likes control. The one area she seems to lack control is in her personal relationships with men. After an accident, Charlotte has to adjust her life to her new circumstances. In her vulnerability, Charlotte opens up and accepts the help of her family and friends. She takes on her friend’s suggestion and begins a new business as an internet dating aide for the hapless communicators; this is temporary until she is able to take on her former life again.

Charlotte is funny, smart and, as her friend Hailey likes to remind her, sometimes mental. Hailey and Charlotte’s twin sister Ness prove to be voices of reason as Charlotte falls deeper into love with a man she only knows from an online dating service. It was Hailey who suggested Charlotte start the business. Charlotte was responsible for introductions between Hailey and her boyfriend; Hailey sees Charlotte’s unique ability to read a person’s inner character and communicate for that person. Charlotte’s surprising business aid is her flatmate, Sam Bowes, who only works temporary jobs to keep his acting options open. It is this odd group, plus parents, an artist younger sister and Granny Helen, who assists Charlotte in an effort to help her mend both her bones and her broken heart over the recent engagement of her boss to another woman.

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger is fun, funny, sympathetic, and engaging. Lucy Robinson handles language well and has developed a group of supporting characters who are as well rounded and entertaining as Charlotte. Through the novel, the reader is involved in Charlotte’s life changes no matter how many turns those changes take. Despite a brief slowdown in pace through the second chapter after Charlotte’s accident and a little drag in email chats, the novel is fast paced and yields a satisfying read from beginning to end. There are a couple of surprises through the novel that propel the story forward and are not contrived or forced. I enjoyed Charlotte’s interaction with the other characters, but truly got pleasure from Charlotte’s internal communication with herself. I think it’s these internal insights and her friends’ unabashedly honest comments that make Charlotte a compelling character.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

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

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Blog Tour: Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

[ 1 ] April 22, 2014

18244895Please join Zoe Fishman, author of Driving Lessons, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Meg Massey

Sarah is a marketing executive that’s sick of the hustle and crowds of New York, and is desperate to get out.  But when her husband lands an opportunity to teach in the middle-of-nowhere Virginia, she finds herself wondering if this was what she really wanted after all.  Soon she finds herself working part-time and trying to find out what she wants to do with her life.  And though her husband is desperate to start a family, – especially after Sarah’s sister-in-law gives birth to a beautiful son – Sarah isn’t sure motherhood is for her.  And her best friend Mona isn’t talking to her.  And on top of everything else, she’s taking driving lessons (at age 36!) because she never had to drive in the city.

Sarah’s best friend Mona has disappeared from life following her move, but steps back in when tragedy strikes.  Suddenly Sarah finds herself back in New York, facing not only her friend’s problems, but an entirely new situation of her own.  And when Sarah re-connects with her sister-in-law in a way she never expected, she finds herself seeing her life and her priorities in a new light.

Driving Lessons provides a glimpse into the life of a woman searching for answers to questions about motherhood, family, friends and career.  Sarah is a lovable, totally relatable character searching for purpose, and as the novel progresses, she undergoes a transformation that is beautiful to watch.  I also loved Mona, a character whom I felt was brilliantly created and written by author Zoe Fishman.  Her journey is one that could have ended very tragically, but as novel ended, I felt that Mona found her happiness, and a sense of empowerment.
I can honestly say that there were only a few books I’ve read in my lifetime that I could not put down.  This was one of them.  From start to finish, I loved every character.  I could relate to Sarah’s search for meaning in a way I can’t describe in a short review.  I will warn readers that there was some language and adult content.  That said, I think this book is a must-read for all the reasons I’ve listed here, and more.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between on her blog.

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

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Review: The Perfect Game by Stephen Paul

[ 0 ] April 21, 2014

The Perfect Game Final (Small)Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Kyle Vine is a psychologist and college professor who is, as his friend Eddie calls him, a “goody two shoes”, whose life takes a strange turn when he goes against his normal behavioral patterns. Kyle has been texting one of his much younger students and when they finally agree to met out for a drink, the night takes a salacious turn and not in any fashion that Kyle could have planned for or imagined. When his student, Allie, is rendered unconscious almost invisibly in an alley, all Kyle can do is panic and watch as a man runs away from the scene. After calling 911, Kyle has no way to realize that at stake is more than just his reputation.

Kyle is soon contacted by Allie’s eccentric Uncle Liam who owns a comic book shop and Liam insists that two meet in order to discuss Allie’s condition and how she may have ended up in a coma after all. Kyle thinks the girl’s uncle is aware of the nature of their relationship and panics but agrees. Ultimately, that would have ended up being a better outcome for the two men. Liam wants to discuss theories on energy transfers between humans, a theory Kyle knows a little about, but Liam is interested in the darker side of the exchanges; essentially when someone is responsible for stripping someone else’s energy by killing them in order to harvest their energy. Liam tells Kyle that Allie is lucky to be alive, but others in New York City have not been so lucky lately. The men meet and Liam shares his findings and opens up an entire world of information and mystery to Kyle. There are discussions of secret government contractors, murders across the city that all involve young people dying of strokes, little police help and more. Liam becomes an unlikely friend and ally to the polished Kyle, and when his theories on a popular Yankees pitcher being connected begin to appear true, a new series of secrets and information is pushed to the surface.

Kyle and Liam join up with Kyle’s friend Eddie to get to the bottom of the mystery and the dynamic between the three is entertaining. The twists that they endure are far from expected and everything from kidnappings, to night watches and mystery underground networks seems completely possible. Stephen Paul’s thriller has mysterious and almost supernatural undertones yet he presents his story in an exciting, well-paced way that makes all of the actions seem believable and plausible. Kyle and Liam grow as individuals and friends and while Kyle is the main character, Liam is an excellent foil to his character and their relationship makes the action and the drama of the book even more enjoyable. The ending of the book wrapped up the story nicely and completely, but all of the secret happenings in the story are not given away, leaving The Perfect Game on the brain long after completion.

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 Stephen Paul. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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Review: What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren

[ 1 ] April 21, 2014

What-the-Dog-KnowsReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Solo was an unruly German shepherd puppy and until his owner Cat Warren decided to try to find a way to handle his energy, she was wary about what kind of dog he would grow into. After having well-behaved shepherds in the past, Warren was worried that the dog would be too much for her to handle until a trainer friend suggested she consider training Solo as a cadaver dog. Warren, a college professor with a science and reporting background, was open to the idea even though she knew little about cadaver dogs and what would be required of both her and Solo if this was the path that they would continue on together. Once Solo got a taste of the training, it was immediately clear that this would be his future.

Warren was unfamiliar with all that owning a working dog entailed and her knowledge and training moves right along with Solo, who had finally found an outlet for all of his energy. Throwing much of her energy into research and discovery, Warren uncovers not only the basics and science of cadavers (and the dogs that search for them), but also learns about the world of working dogs and their handlers.  As Warren and Solo move further into the world of cadaver recovery, Warren learns about military dogs, K9 officers, and more, while trying to find the balance between handler and owner with Solo. Warren is detailed, well-researched and descriptive with her discoveries and she is quick to share her emotions, her facts and her own development in the field as well as Solo’s. For anyone looking for a feel good story about a dog and their owner, What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs is not that book – there are, however, personal dialogues and Warren shares emotions – as Warren writes the book in a factual, scientific manner rather than a flowery way.

Warren explains the complex dynamic between people and dogs and how these important relationships also play a critical part in the working world, not just in homes. Solo’s career taught Warren not only about a new field that she knew nothing about, but also fueled her research and helped her find a new passion along with her pup. At times the book is a bit wordy due to Warren’s extensive and thorough analysis, but it is worth sticking with and much can be learned about the little discussed world of working dogs.

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 free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 11 ] April 20, 2014

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday are hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

For Review – Paper Copies

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For Review – NetGalley and Edelweiss eBooks

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