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Review: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

[ 3 ] October 17, 2014

the children act by ian mcewan book coverReviewed by Jax Kepple

Ian McEwan’s The Children Act is, like all his other books, beautifully written. At a brief 240 pages, the story packs a lot of detailed legal cases as plot points for Fiona Maye, High Court Judge, as she navigates both marital strife at home and a case that comes a little too close for comfort. Ultimately, there was not enough there for it to be a truly impeccable novel.

Fiona and her husband Jack live a quiet, childless life in the Gray’s Inn section of London, where she is a judge in the Family Circuit and he is a geology lecturer at a university. At the start, Fiona is fuming due to a request posed by Jack, one that she finds unacceptable. She is interrupted by a late night phone call from her clerk, indicating that a new case would come to the bench tomorrow involving a boy, Adam, who has leukemia. Adam’s parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and therefore are against any sort of blood transfusion. He is also three month’s shy of his eighteenth birthday, when he would be able to make the decision for himself.

As Fiona is reeling from Jack’s behavior, she is faced with this difficult case in court. She decides to go visit Adam to see how his mindset is. While in the hospital, they form a connection through music and poetry. Fiona makes her decision, and, without giving it away, afterwards is continuously confronted with it for months to come.

McEwan is able to easily explain the legal terminology without it being a huge burden to the reader. The Maye’s apartment, Fiona’s chambers, Adam’s hospital room, a weekend circuit trip to Newcastle all explode to life on the page, which add to the somewhat privileged life that Fiona leads. Her problems compared are trivial compared to the life and death decision in Adam’s life, but they are presented in the same manner.

The end twist (if you can call it that) was a little rushed. I felt that almost too much time was spent setting up the Christmas concert that Fiona was playing in, which itself was presented as a “do or die” situation for her since she was playing in front of all her colleagues. However, it really didn’t matter and I felt that a few more pages could have helped to tie up the ending in a more flawless way.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

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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Review: How The Octopus Got Eight Arms by Yvonne Arroyo

[ 2 ] October 17, 2014

how the octopus got eight arms book cover Reviewed by Alyssa Katanic

I love stories that play with the idea of how animals came to be the way they are. Kipling’s Just So Stories are some favorites that my children and I often enjoy, so we were very interested to see how Yvonne Arroyo would tell the story of How The Octopus Got Eight Arms.

When Oscar Octopus met and married the shark, Sharkey McGhee, he had just two arms, which was just fine when Oscar only had one other to hold between them. Then they were blessed with eight children: four octopi and four sharks. Oscar enjoyed parenting and playing with his children until the day his wife was called away to take care of her sick mother. Daddy was on his own with the children for a few days, and he didn’t fare well with just his two arms to hold all eight of them. When Mom returned, she rushed her husband to the doctor! He was worn out, but the doctor knew what he needed. An operation and six extra arm attachments later, Oscar was a multi-tasking papa with an arm for each of his kiddos!

With six children of my own, I have often said that baby number three, and each thereafter, should come with an extra arm! Yvonne Arroyo must agree!

How the Octopus Got Eight Arms did not catch my children’s imagination as well as some other animal stories. They complained that an octopus would not marry a shark and thought that the idea was a bit too much; however, they did like the explanation that daddy needed more arms so that he could hug all of his babies at once. I guess that they could relate to that! The illustrations—colored-pencil drawings—were also just so-so.

Over all, Arroyo’s How the Octopus Got Eight Arms is an imaginative book with quite a bit of poetic license taken. How much your children enjoy it may depend on how literal they see the world and perhaps how many siblings they have.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Outskirts Press, Inc. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Compulsion by Martina Boone

[ 11 ] October 17, 2014

compulsion by martina boone book coverI have a copy of Compulsion by Martina Boone to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

Three plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who somehow seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Most Creative/Prolific Contributor Award!

[ 4 ] October 16, 2014

As promised, on the 10th of every month, I give away a book of their choice to the most creative/prolific contributor to Luxury Reading!

This month, our fearless contender is…

Kara S. !

Kudos to everyone for your great comments! Kara, p
lease post a comment here with your selection!

The contest started over on October 10th, and I will pick a new winner on the 10th of November. There is no limit to how many times you can win.

Remember, frequency of commenting counts, but so does the quality – a creative and relevant comment will get you more points than something like “sounds great”. Every month, I will pick a winner and post their name, as well as send them an e-mail. The winner can pick any item that is available on

Get commenting!
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Review: The Summer House by Santa Montefiore

[ 1 ] October 16, 2014

Book cover of The Summer House by Santa MontefioreReviewed by Colleen Turner

When Lord Frampton dies in a skiing accident he leaves behind a family fighting through a myriad of complicated emotions. Everyone’s lives are further turned upside down when a young woman named Phaedra shows up at the funeral claiming to be his illegitimate daughter. They discover in the Lord’s will that Phaedra has been left a large sum of money and the priceless Frampton sapphires. As the family gets to know Phaedra they find a kindness and clarity that somehow begins to heal each of them and in turn brings them all together again, making them a family like they haven’t been in years. But one family member is not as ready to believe Phaedra’s story and is determined to expose her as a fraud out to take advantage of a rich family’s grief. Further complicating the situation is the growing attraction between Phaedra and Lord Frampton’s eldest son, David. With all this swirling around them, will any of them be able to heal and move on from tragedy to be happy once again?

The Summer House perfectly captures the various ways in which this upper class family handles their grief at losing its patriarch as well as the innumerable emotions they go through when Phaedra presents herself, many of which surprised me. Antoinette’s acceptance of her would-be step daughter and her deep need to have Phaedra in her life as a way of staying close to her husband were something I never expected and were really touching, especially as Phaedra had never really had a family of her own. David and Phaedra’s palpable attraction was a little disturbing at first given the situation, but it was dealt with carefully and never pushed itself too far over into the icky zone, especially as further information was discovered along the way. The characters are a delightful, mixed bag of eccentricities, and just about every trait you would expect is represented: the kind, accepting mother; the pushy, opinionated, and old-fashioned grandmother who has a little sliver of mischievousness she tries unsuccessfully to keep hidden from the others; the selfish and domineering sister-in-law; the charming, quirky yet flawed sons of the family who each have their own crosses to bear; the unflinchingly protective spinster sister; and the outsider who comes in trying to find a place amongst this intimidating family while hiding secrets she can never reveal. Between the wonderful characters and the descriptive, captivating setting in the English countryside I was thoroughly swept away into the Frampton’s world.

On the downside, the secrets the characters are trying to hide – mainly Phaedra but a few other tinier secrets of the others – were not hard to figure out. About halfway through I pretty much understood where it was going and had to just enjoy the story as it continued to its inevitable conclusion. Maybe because of this, or as an issue all its own, much of the story felt repetitive: Phaedra and David thinking of each other and their growing feelings over and over; Antoinette worrying about how, if, and when she will get over her husband; Roberta, David’s sister-in-law, continually finding fault in Phaedra and stating she just doesn’t trust her. It felt like some of this repetition could have been edited out and the story would have flowed better.

The Summer House is a feel-good, light sort of romance and family drama that wraps up nice and neat by the end. While some heavy themes such as death and betrayal are central to the storyline they don’t bog the reader down but instead are used as catalysts for the characters’ growth and progress out of the darkness their lives fall into. There’s a warm thread of acceptance and forgiveness weaving through the sadness that lightens the whole story. While this isn’t necessarily realistic given the situations they find themselves in it made for a satisfying book to lose myself in for a few days, and I find myself a little sad to leave the characters behind.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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 Simon and Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

[ 1 ] October 15, 2014

Reviewed by Amanda Farmer

If you are familiar with the TV show Dexter, then you will know what to expect when reading the book, Killer Instinct. S. E. Green’s debut novel is about Lane, a female version of Dexter who struggles with the social awkwardness of high school and her dark urges to eradicate serial killers. Dexter was able to pull off his dark behavior, and the show was a success; however, I felt the novel fell flat and that Killer Instinct was unable to pull off the melodrama.

Throughout the book, we are given a look into Lane’s fascination with killers and her desire to become one. She wants to stop the urge inside of her that is calling her, so she decides to find people to “hunt” and kill. This is her story of discovering what works and what doesn’t. As she discovers what works for her, she is also chauffeurs her siblings around, works at a local animal shelter on the weekends, discovers the truth about her biological father and the lies that were told to her about him, and semi-dates a new guy at school. Along the way she gains the attention of a real serial killer that has come back to town and is leaving the victim’s body parts around town. What she does next will determine her fate and all those she loves before they become victims themselves. When she discovers who the real serial killer is, it will throw her and the reader for a loop and she will have her first taste at actually killing someone. How will it change her?

As I read this book, I felt the circumstances surrounding Lane’s story were implausible and unrealistic. Lane was able to get away with a lot, especially considering her parents are FBI agents, and the story just fell into place a little too neatly towards the end. The writing was good and kept the reader’s attention, but I just didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters in the book. I felt Lane was using her parents and was very selfish when it came to her siblings and few friends. I do not recommend this book; if you like the show Dexter you will be disappointed. I loved the show but not this book.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

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

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