Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: The Sound of Glass by Karen White

The Sound of Glass
by Karen White
Release Date: May 12, 2015
2015 NAL
Ebook Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451470898
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

My Thoughts
The Sound of Glass pretty much captured my attention from beginning to end; I just really enjoyed that southern South Carolina charm and thought the intertwining relationships and issues were quite believable and enjoyable.  

Merritt is one of those characters whom I actually disliked at the beginning as she was cold, prickly, and just not very nice.  Having come to South Carolina from Maine to check out an inheritance that was left to her husband, she discovered that a change of scene was good for her after his sudden death two years before.  As neither Merritt nor her husband discussed their previous lives, in a some wounds were better left unopened type of a deal, she did not realize that he had family in South Carolina, a grandmother and a brother, who closely resembled him.  Looking at her new home as a refuge, learning her new home came with family left her confused and unsure how to deal with the situation.  Furthermore, her stepmother, only five years her senior, showed up on her doorstep, with her son, Merritt's younger brother, intending to stay permanently.  While I definitely understood Merritt's confusion and disgruntlement, I definitely did not agree with how she handled the situation, and this was why she did not endear herself to me in the beginning.  The new stepmother was a bit much to take as well, although I did love her mommy-isms and her sayings as they were kind of interesting, if rather annoying at times.  

There was a lot of comparisons between Maine and South Carolina, with perhaps Maine coming up a bit short at times, so I did like it when the author mentioned Maine's icy beauties and other advantages to living there; I have been to both states and I definitely have seen beautiful places in both.  I do have to agree with Merritt on one thing though, I don't know how anyone can handle the heat in South Carolina.  

There were a lot of underlying messages in this novel though and some rather deep themes.  Spousal abuse, mental abuse, and physical abuse were main themes in this novel, and the lengths to which some people will go to in order to get out of difficult situations.  Dangerous secrets is another theme, and how the withholding of secrets can lead to much greater problems down the road for people, and the destruction of entire lives for others.  The south, mansion, and gothic are words that just seem to belong together and when you throw in a secret, it certainly doesn't take much to get my attention after that.  Told in alternating POV, we learn Merritt's secret as well as Edith's and the effect this had on Merritt's husband as well as on other characters who appear in the novel.  

The Sound of Glass was an enjoyable read and I definitely loved the atmosphere in this novel.  Merritt grew on me as the novel developed and I learned to like her very much, especially as she opened up and learned to trust those around her.  Despite her over the top personality, I also really liked Loralee, and thought she would be a fun, if exhausting, person to be around.  I wouldn't call the plane crash scenario at the beginning of the novel a mystery though, as it seemed to be more of a puzzle that kind of drew the characters together and made you realize how small a world it really is out there.  While the novel moved a bit slowly, I rather liked that as I guess I was in the mood for something not overly in-depth, but still had a bit of a serious side to it. 
Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: A Twist of Fortune by Mike Martin

About the Author

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada 
and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a longtime freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. The Body on the T was the second book, Beneath the Surface is the third installment and A Twist of Fortune is the newest book in the series.

He is a member of Ottawa Independent Writers, Capital Crime Writers, the Crime Writers of Canada and the Newfoundland Writers’ Guild.
For More Information

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Spotlight: Phoenix Rising by Hunter S. Jones

02_Phoenix Rising_Cover 
Publication Date: May 19, 2015 
MadeGlobal Publishing 
eBook; ASIN: B00X806742
Genre: Historical Fiction

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The last hour of Anne Boleyn's life...

Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny's stage.

A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII. She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Ch√Ęteau Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king. What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment... the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed for ever.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

The Stranger
by Harlan Coben
Release Date: March 24, 2015
2015 Dutton
Hardcover Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0525953500
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them.

My Thoughts
The Stranger is a novel about secrets: Basically, about what happens when a stranger approaches you and reveals a secret, perhaps a dangerous secret, about someone you love and the consequences of that revealing to one's relationship and one's life.  I really liked the concept of this story, and thought the effects and consequences were really interesting, but the plot itself took a long time to come together, not a bad thing in itself, it's just there was something missing that is usually there in a Coben novel.

This novel is supposed to make you think about the moral implications of withholding a big secret from your loved ones and the consequences of keeping said secret.  A stranger approaches you out of nowhere and reveals important information about your life and expects you to make decisions about leaving that person or confronting that person, acting like your moral compass in a way, something that really bothered me, and is questioned frequently throughout.  Does someone have the right to probe into our private lives in such a way, and question our thoughts and actions and feelings, expecting us to behave in such a way, to take the moral high ground?  Not everyone does in this novel, and as a result, there is blackmail involved too, which is a nonperson felony.  There were some twists and turns in this novel, and I definitely liked the way technology was woven into the narrative to show us how it was used to garner information on people or how vulnerable technology can make us.  It also showed the positive side to technology when a locator app was used, something I have used myself on occasion for straying children who don't always come home from school when they're supposed to because they got sidetracked with friends.

I actually thought it was a solid mystery, although I was far more interested in the side stories than I was in Adam's story, other than his ongoing search for information.  Adam's wife, Corinne, had such a flimsy excuse for leaving that I didn't really focus too much on her absence until more information became available and it became much more interesting.  I love Harlan Coben, and have enjoyed many of his books, but I don't feel that he did justice to Corinne's absence as I really didn't feel any empathy towards it. And while I get that Adam was upset, and so were the boys, it didn't really carry across the page very well.  Something just felt off the whole time I was reading, although I couldn't quite get a feel for what it was.   I wonder if we had Corinne's POV if it would have made the difference, or perhaps one of the boys. It's not that I didn't like Adam, some of the events were somewhat unclear and not as effective.

The Stranger is suspenseful enough to keep you reading and wanting to finish the book, but the dialogue is a bit choppy and the plot is acceptable.  I do feel that the usual Coben flair for effective suspense and good plot twists was missing, leaving a novel that felt flatter than usual, missing that certain something.  I did find some of the characters interesting, and definitely thought the concept was neat and thought-provoking.  However, the concept didn't make up for an ending that seemed rather contrived and too many things were resolved rather too neatly for my taste.