Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor – Book Review

Sycamore

In 1991, seventeen-year-old Jess Winters went out for a run and never came home.  The townspeople of Sycamore had varied reactions to this, and life went on for most of the town.  However, as we soon learn, many people in town were affected by this mystery in various ways.

In 2009, Laura Drennan, a new transplant to Sycamore, comes across human bones while hiking around the outskirts of Sycamore.  What follows the story of Jess, as well as a smattering of Laura’s new life in Sycamore.

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I really liked the way this novel was set up.  Both Jess and Laura have dealt with loss and the bewildering after effects of it.  Jess Winters is a well-developed, easily loved character.  Her story kept me reading this novel.  Laura’s story was definitely secondary to the novel, however, she also showed courage in the face of despair.  I really liked how the other inhabitants of the town were also made a part of the plot.

I highly recommend this book.  Well done, Chancellor!

Bryn Chancellor

Bryn Chancellor

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The Witches of New York by Ami McKay – Book Review

The Witches of New York

Do you love a good novel, set in Victorian New York?  If so, you will love this novel.  This is a novel of magic, evil overtones, and female empowerment.  Tea and Sympathy is a small tea shop run by Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair.  While it is indeed a tea shop, they also provide other services which would be frowned upon if made widely known.

Into this clandestine shop comes newcomer Beatrice Dunn, who is looking to fulfill her destiny in New York.  Beatrice is a witch-in-training with a power unknown to herself. Into this mix we also have a fanatical “preacher” looking to “keep all woman in their place”, and a fear that is running rampant against all things to do with women gaining any rights whatsoever.

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I loved this novel.  The character development was very good, the plot was exciting and the characters were believable.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, McKay!

Ami McKay

Ami McKay

 

Girl Up by Laura Bates – Book Review

Girl Up by Laura Bates

This non-fiction book is actually aimed at teen girls, however I really found it informative, empowering, funny and irreverent.  I also feel that women of all ages should read this book, as well as men.  It presents feminism in a way that is both smart and funny.  As we all know, all people should be empowered, and this book does that for women.

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I really loved the chapters on consent, which gave great examples of exactly what consent is, and what it is NOT.  I feel that teenage boys should be reading this chapter in particular.  There is no “varied” way of saying “no”.  No is no, stop is stop.  There is no “getting around” that.  The explanations of the female body were informative and necessary, since there is a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding that.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s a real eye-opener, and I seriously wish that it had been around when I was young.  I hope that many, many women and young girls read it. Well done, Bates!

Laura Bates

Laura Bates

 

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

When I got this book from the library, I thought that it was a continuation of the Outlander series.  Of course, this was only because I jumped on the book when I saw it, grabbed it before anyone else could, and never looked at the front inside cover.  Grabby much?  However, although I was initially disappointed by the fact that it was not the next book, these stories more than made up for my first disappointment.

Suffice it to say that they add to the wonderful historical fiction that makes up the Outlander world.  While I have only read the Outlander series itself (as opposed to the books of the Lord John Grey series), all of these short novellas were new to me.  Apparently, all but two of the seven stories have been published before in various places.  I must say that I really liked them all, and of course the back-history is, as always fascinating.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I do highly recommend this compilation since it is well written, exciting and highly entertaining.  Well done, Gabaldon!

Outlander-Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss – Book Review

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

I really liked this novel.  The atmosphere, setting and underlying creepiness were just so delicious!  Who doesn’t love a Gothic novel done just right?  This novel gives us the orphaned Mary Jekyll, daughter of Dr. Jekyll, who due to money problems tries to collect the reward for information regarding the murderer Mr. Hyde.  In the process, she becomes associated with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

There is much murder, mystery and intriguing characters.  There are young ladies who have been experimented on by their “fathers”, including such luminaries as, Moreau, Frankenstein and Rappaccini.  Their individual stories are horribly fascinating.

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I won’t let any black cats out of the bag, but simply tell you that the novel is wonderful, and happily there is a sequel that will be out in about a year.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Goss!

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Theodora Goss

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor – Book Review

TheLostLetter by Cantor

This novel moves back and forth between Austria 1938 and California, 1989.  In 1938, Kristoff an 18-year-old apprentice finds a position with the Faber family as an engraver of stamps for the Austrian government.  This is Kristoff’s first experience living with a family, and it is one he enjoys whole-heartedly.

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Meanwhile in 1989, Katie Nelson decides to have her father’s extensive stamp collection appraised since her father is in the beginning stages of dementia, and he has always insisted that the stamps may one day be worth a lot of money.  The appraiser, Benjamin Grossman discovers a rare stamp which he doesn’t know anything about.  As Benjamin and Katie try to unravel the mystery of this highly unusual stamp, we are treated to the story of the stamp, Kristoff’s early life, and the Austrian underground.

Since I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll just say that this novel was well written and well researched.  I really loved this novel and highly recommend it.  Well done Cantor!

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Jillian Cantor

 

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne – Book Review

The Marsh King's Daughter

At the age of 14, Helena Pelletier’s mother was lured away from home by Jacob Holbrook.  Even though there was an extensive search, she was never found.  At the age of 16, she gave birth to Helena, and they all lived in the wilderness in the middle of a marsh until Helena saved her mother from certain death brought about by her father.  Years later Jacob escapes prison, kills two police officers and comes looking for Helena and her two young daughters.  It’s up to Helena to track him through the marsh to keep her family safe.

The novel moves through time by way of flashbacks of Helena’s early life with her mother and father in the marsh.  Her love of Jacob is complicated.  He treated her well one moment and horribly the next.  She revered Jacob for years since he encouraged her hunting and tracking skills.  Helena was interested in learning how to survive in the wilderness, and Jacob encouraged her behavior as a means to marginalize her mother.  Her lack of understanding of her mother is at the fore in this novel, and Helena ends up understanding her mother much more than she ever did before, since Jacob’s prison escape has forced her to re-evaluate her childhood, and come to an understanding of what really had been going on.

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I found this novel very compelling.  The backstory was captivating, as was the hunt for Jacob.  Helena grows as a person during the hunt for her father and works through her history as she has never done before.  A thrilling thriller.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Dionne!

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Karen Dionne