Monday, July 26, 2010

Review & Giveaway: 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

Amidst a horrendous winter storm in February, 1857, prominent New York dentist Harvey Burdell is violently murdered in his room at his home. The doors and windows were all locked and suspicion immediately falls on Emma Cunningham, a pretty widow with two teen aged daughters who had recently become Dr. Burdell's housekeeper. When she produces a marriage certificate dated two weeks prior to the murder which shows that she secretly became Dr. Burdell's wife, the suspicion is only heightened.

As the coroner begins what seems to be a completely biased inquest, Emma finds an ally in defense attorney Henry Clinton. He is inspired to help Emma when he sees that the powerful district attorney is set upon prosecuting Mrs. Cunningham despite nothing but circumstantial evidence.

However, nothing and no one is what they seem in this complicated case. Dr. Burdell is far from the upstanding citizen that he appeared to be and practically everyone involved has an ulterior motive of some kind. Unravelling the tangle reveals an exciting and absorbing tale.

The detail of nineteenth century New York and the excellent trial depiction made this one of the most enjoyable crime novels that I have read. Ellen Horan does an superb job of capturing the flavor and turmoil of the years just before the beginning of the Civil War.

Ellen Horan

I read 31 Bond Street as part of the TLC Book Tour. For the full schedule of participating blogs, click here. And for more information about the author and her book, please visit her website.

31 Bond Street is published by Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-177396-9

I am giving away my gently read paperback advanced reading copy! If you would like to enter, just leave your email here in the comments. An extra entry is available for anyone who becomes a follower or follows already (on Google, Feedburner, etc). Leave a separate comment if you do. US and Canada mailing addresses only, please. You can enter until midnight eastern on August 15. Thank you for visiting and entering!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

In a complete departure from my usual reading material, I just read Justin Cronin's The Passage. A word of IS a vampire book, to a degree. Okay, I see some of you rolling your eyes. Yes, vampires are all the rage right now and some of you have had it with them. But this summer's very buzzed about novel is as far from Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse as it is possible to be. Closer to Stephen King (The Stand) and Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain). I have to admit that I was a huge Stephen King fan when I was in college....I read just about all of his books. The Stand was easily my favorite. I loved the's about a virus that wipes out the vast majority of the earth's population with the survivors pulled into two groups (good & evil, of course.) It's just a fantastic story, told in a way that keeps you spellbound throughout. And so I can see why The Passage is being compared to The is another spellbinding story about the survivors of a devastating virus that changes every aspect of our world.

We begin a little bit in our future, ten or fifteen years maybe. The war on terror has progressed, we now have border crossings at state lines and security cameras and staff just about everywhere. The government is desperate to find a new weapon (how many great stories start with a colossal government screw-up???) and the idea of the moment is to turn humans into killing machines.

For that, they have experimented with twelve death row inmates. They have found a way to turn back on the thymus gland, a gland everyone has in their neck that basically begins to atrophy once adulthood is reached. In childhood the gland produces cells integral to the immune system. The effect on the inmates is to turn them into creatures remarkably like vampires. Only one tiny hitch: they are not controllable. The head scientist then decides he needs a child to test it on and six year old Amy is chosen and brought to the lab.

At this point, all hell breaks loose when all twelve inmates escape and begin a process that will kill the majority of the population while turning the remainder into the same vampirish creatures who never seem to age and are difficult to kill. Mass chaos is the result and the army attempts to take the children and sequester them, sending them to camps via train.

Fast forward 92 years. The residents of one camp are still there, have been for a few generations now, sustained by the huge banks of lights that come on every night to repel the creatures, which they call "smokes" or "virals". Few of the residents have ever seen the stars in the night sky.

"His whole life Peter had thought of the world of the Time Before as something gone. It was as if a blade had fallen onto time itself, cleaving it into halves, that which came before and that which came after. Between these halves there was no bridge; the war had been lost, the Army was no more, the world beyond the Colony was an open grave of a history no one even remembered. Peter, in fact, had never given much thought to what his father had actually been looking for, out there in the dark. He supposed this was because it had seemed so obvious: people, other survivors. But holding one of his father's rifles - and even now, lying in the barracks while his ankle mended and remembering the feel of it - he sensed something more, how the past and all its powers seemed to have flowed into him. So maybe that was what his father had been doing all along.....He'd been trying to remember the world."

The Colony, as they refer to themselves, have a simple government system set up, everyone has a role they have been trained to fulfill. The point of it all is simply their own survival. Except that the lights that come on every night run on battery power. And batteries were never designed to last for 92 years. The lights will be going out and when they do, there will be carnage. Everyone has seen the effects of those taken by the "smokes". Death is hoped for, the alternative is unthinkable.

As the residents are deciding what to do an incredible thing happens. A "walker" arrives. Walkers are legends, none have been seen in living memory. A walker is an uninfected survivor from the outside. And the walker is Amy, the final subject of that long ago experiment. She is not a smoke but was not unaffected by what was done to her. For one thing she doesn't age, or doesn't age normally. After 92 years she has aged no more than 10. And she heals at an incredible, unbelievable rate. Plus she can hear the thoughts of all those infected souls. They don't have any way to know that she is the key, the answer, the way to the salvation of the human race.

But they know that she is special in some way. When they uncover a cryptic radio transmission that has been broadcast for nearly a century a group is formed to take Amy back to where she began. The message?

"If you found her, bring her here."

Not much to go on, perhaps, but enough. A beginning, for them and for us.

Seldom have I been so captivated by a story, I spent an entire weekend completely absorbed in its nearly 800 pages. Normally I am captured by recreations of the past, historical fiction makes those long gone worlds live and breathe. With this book I have renewed appreciation for those authors who create possible futures, building up the effects and repercussions of decisions made in the present into the world that might be. This book is imaginative and vivid with fully developed, interesting characters. You will miss them when it is over...good thing this is the first in a planned trilogy.

In short, I can't recommend this book highly enough. I just loved it. Not you usual thing? Mine either but it is easily one of my favorite books of the year. How's that for an endorsement? But don't take my word for it, here are a few more reviews from some of my favorite bloggers:

The Passage is published by Ballantine, ISBN 978-0-345-50496-8. You can visit the website here.

****An interesting side note....last year I received The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan. The first of a trilogy about a vampire virus...from the back of the book "a bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity..." Hmmm. Of course I haven't read it yet. Yes, I admit to being over a year behind (ugh). But it sounds interesting and similiar to The Passage. Gonna have to read it so I can compare!!! Has anyone out there read them both??****

Huge Historical Fiction Summer Reading Giveaway!

Need some great summer reading material? Help me clear some space! I am buried in books...okay, there are worse fates, but I have to make some room! I've put together seven great historical fiction books, all are paperback, five are advance reading copies. The winner will receive all seven! This will be US only (sorry, I can't afford to ship a heavy box internationally) and you can enter thru midnight eastern on August 10. For one entry just leave your email address in the comments. If you would like additional entries you can leave a comment on any of my reviews for these titles. I have reviews up for all of them except for The Constant Princess, just click on the cover to go to the review. I won't be counting comments on the reviews that say only "please enter me"...any thoughtful comment about the book or review will be counted. Best of luck and many thanks for helping me reduce my stacks of books!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review and Giveaway: The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

Life has seemed to be all about heartbreak lately for Kate Robinson. First the death of her mother, then the painful breakup with her boyfriend and finally the demise of her fashion line...they all conspire to make her want to escape. She and her Mom had long planned a trip to Ireland, a trip her Mom was not able to make but she encouraged Kate to take on her own. That is how she finds herself backpacking alone down a lonely Irish country lane, drenched to the skin with the constant rain.

Stumbling into the small coastal town of Glenmara, Kate encounters in insulated group of villagers in the midst of a small festival. Widowed Bernie and her lifelong friend Aileen are manning the lace booth, selling the items their circle of friends have created. Kate is captivated by the lovely lace pieces...they remind her of her mother, who taught her to sew.

Bernie takes one look at bedraggled Kate and invites her to stay. Kate's presence in the village affects people in different ways, some are thrilled to have someone new around, others resent the intrusion. When she joins the circle of lace makers, Kate is inspired by the idea of adding Irish lace to the ladies' bras and underwear. What starts as a way to inject something beautiful and positive into the lives of the women, who all have had problems and challenges, ends up becoming a business opportunity that is much needed in the village and in Kate's life, too. Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled about this new venture. There will be obstacles to overcome and problems to solve before they can look into that promising future.

Heather Barbieri

In this lovely novel the author deftly crafts a touching story about women, friendship and life. She beautifully tells what binds them together, the threads and stitching that make up ordinary lives...sometimes embroidering them into the extraordinary and sometimes tearing them apart. If you are looking for a great summer read that will take you away, don't miss The Lace Makers of Glenmara.

The Lace Makers of Glenmara is published by Harper Perennial, ISBN 978-0-06-177246-7. For more information about Heather Barbieri and her books, please visit her website. I received this book as part of a TLC Book Tour (thanks Trish & Lisa, you ladies are the best!!), for a complete list of tour stops, click here.

I have two paperback copies of this book to give away! One is an advanced reading copy, the other is the trade paperback, gently read. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address. To enter just leave me a comment here that includes your email address. This giveaway will be open until midnight eastern time on July 26. If you would like an extra entry you can follow any way you like (Google, Feedburner, email, etc) or tweet the giveaway on Twitter. Please leave me a comment to let me know that you did--if you already follow, that counts too, just let me know in your comment. Thank you all so much for visiting and entering. Good luck!

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.