Celticlady's Reading Room

I love books of any type, ebooks, print in a variety of genres. I review and have been since 2009...

A Torch in His Heart  - Anna Belfrage

Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage is a time slip story of Jason, Helle and Sam. The two men have been searching for Helle for over 2000 years. In an earlier life, as a young girl, Helle had died, Currently, Helle is a successful woman and starts working for Sam. In a short time, Sam starts to show his true self, being sexually intrusive, making things very difficult for Helle, that he will have Helle no matter what, even if it means killing Jason and forcing Helle to do as he wishes. Nothing matters to Sam then to have what he has been after for so long. Helle tried to quit her job but Sam is insistent that she keep working for him. She finally has the courage to just not report to work and take her chances with Jason. After that the friction between the three increases until Jason and Helle are fighting for their lives

 

Helle had few memories of her long ago past, or any other lives she had, Jason fills her in on most everything, he does keep from her how serious Sam is to fulfill his destiny. It takes Helle awhile to come to terms with what is happening. What transpires is a dangerous, suspenseful paranormal steamy romance that will keep you turning the pages. I have read everything, except for a novel or two in her Graham saga and I have to say that she never disappoints. I love a time travel story and this one is unique in that it involves more than one past live. 

 

I look forward to the next in the series, The Wanderer which continues the story of Jason and Helle. 

 

 

A Spark of Light

A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult

As a fan of Jodi Picoult for years now, I of course was more than excited to get her latest novel A Spark of Light. While nothing she writes will compare to My Sister’s Keeper (in my humble opinion), one of the things I love most about Jodi is her ability to tackle tough subjects and turn them into a conversation via a fictional story with rich characters.

 

Her latest novel is centered around the age-old argument of pro-life or pro-choice regarding abortion, as well as women’s rights. 

 

The description of the book on Goodreads reads:

 

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

 

As a woman and parent myself, I don’t necessarily condone or support the abolishment of abortion; however, I am neither pro-life or pro-choice, but rather pro women’s rights. I believe every woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, even if that involves pregnancy. I also understand that we are talking about a potential human growing inside of her and what rights that future child should have, but I also have the opinion that a baby is not “alive” until it is born, so how can something that hasn’t been born yet be “murdered”? And how can it be murder if it’s just tissue when most abortions occur? Do we allow tissue to have rights? By the time a fetus has a functional brain and fully developed heart and other organs, it is far too late to abort, so allowing the baby to have rights when it is more a baby than tissue makes sense, but do we value those rights over the rights of the woman carrying the potential baby?

 

I can’t answer these questions, nor can anyone, which is why we have such extreme opinions on both sides. These are the types of issues Jodi Picoult tackles in this novel. Every character is different and comes from a different angle regarding abortion and women’s rights. It is amazing to me how she can take such a controversial topic, include all sides of the argument, and interweave them into a crazy Venn diagram where all the opinions overlap and we are all left wondering, what is the right answer? How can we come to some sort of understanding as a country, and why do we have to resort to violence to be heard and feel understood?

 

While I don’t think this was her best novel to date (again, I'm biased with My Sister's Keeper), I do love the fact that she wrote this book during such a difficult and pivotal time in our country. Women died for their rights, to be equal to men, and it’s unreal how in 2018 this is still such a hot topic. There are many moments in this novel where she makes some poignant points through various characters’ dialogue, but perhaps the best thing she wrote was included in her author’s note, which reads as follows:

 

“Honestly, I do not believe we, as a society, will ever agree on this issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from places of unshakeable belief. But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other—and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in these honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best”.

 

One of the only issues I had with the book is there is a character, a background character that had a purpose and was the catalyst of the events of the gunman, but her story was not wrapped up in an appropriate way. Jodi sometimes leaves things to our imagination but this particular character inadvertently started the entire chain of events, yet we don’t know what becomes of her. While that was disappointing, the novel itself is still definitely worth a read. Especially if you’re a woman and especially if you have opinions about abortion and women’s rights. Perhaps reading this book will open your eyes to other perspectives. 

 

And thanks to Jodi Picoult for once again working her magic and tackling such difficult issues and making her readers do some critical thinking and possibly reevaluate where we stand, or how we treat each other.

 

Guest Review: Kara Kelly

The Last Weekend of the Summer - Peter Murphy

Whenever I read a book by Peter Murphy, I feel transported right into the era or timeframe of the story. This novel is about a dysfunctional family, pretty much like anyone's family, we all have dysfunction at a certain level.

Gloria, the matriarch of the family, gathers her family, children and grandchildren, to the lake cottage that has been in the family for years. Johnnie, Buddy, and CC all bring along with them the family drama that they are dealing with, or not dealing with. They learn when they arrive at the lake cottage, that their estranged father will also be in attendance yet they don't know why they have been summoned. They all assume that Gloria is dying and getting her affairs in order. The three adult children, all have different reasons for not having a relationship with Jake.

The plot of this novel is very moving and relatable, as I said, everyone has drama and dysfunction, the characters are very believable, emotional and the story is fast-paced. A very moving story! Like I said, I always love a Peter Murphy novel, I don't think he can write anything bad and I look forward to the next book!

Great Mystery!

The Coroner - Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

The Coroner is a story of a young woman, Emily Hartford, an up and coming surgeon and recently engaged is called home because her father has had a heart attack. Her father is a medical examiner in the small town that Emily grew up in. She and her father are estranged because of the death of her mother. Emily was never told how her mother died, all she knew is that she died in a car accident, but she knows that there is more to the story than what she was told by her father.

A young girl is found murdered and Emily is asked by her father to do the autopsy. She does this and finds herself drawn into the investigation. She renews her friendship with an old flame, the sheriff, Nick Larsen. Her fiance wants her to come back to Chicago to resume her life there with him, but as time goes on, Emily is not so sure she wants to. Emily is threatened and time races as she and Nick try to find the killer. This is a bit difficult as there are numerous suspects.

This novel is written as a good murder mystery, good plot and is exciting enough to keep the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by this author! Love a good mystery? Then this book is worth taking a look at!

Scar Tissue - Patricia  Hale

A young lady, Ashley Lambert, jumps 18 stories to her death in an apparent suicide. Ashley was the perfect person, according to her parents and they want to know why their daughter jumped. They decide to hire the PI team, Griff Cole and Britt Calahan to investigate. In another story within a story, Britt and Griff purchase a home and move in together. Britt befriends the neighbor, and when she witnesses bruises on the woman's arms and back she becomes suspicious. The two stories intertwine and create a chain of events that become dangerous. Against Cole's wishes, Britt digs further into what could be happening with their neighbors and the husband/wife relationship, why does Rhea have bruises? The investigation into Ashley's death leads them to question the coaches, her parents, and her peers. Ashley was an athlete who was near perfection in her performance which leads to the question of performance drugs.

I have read one other Cole and Calahan and enjoyed that one. The writing keeps the reader engaged and even though the book is less than 200 pages, it does pack a punch. I enjoyed the characterizations and especially the relationship between Cole and Calahan. A genuine respect between the two. 

If you are looking for a mystery that will keep your attention, then give this series a try!

The Great Alone

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

Every once in a while, if you're lucky, you come across a book that is always on your mind.  You find yourself at work, the grocery store, yoga class, wondering what the characters are doing, if they're okay, what adventure lies ahead.

 
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah, is one of those books.  It is persistently unputdownable.  It is incredibly written and a lovely sort of haunting. 
 
In the Vietnam Era in America, with a country divided and men returning home as zombies, mere shadows of the men they were when they left, lives were irrevocably changed.
 
Set during this tumultuous time, Hannah tells the coming of age tale of Leni Allbright, who suddenly finds herself and her life being uprooted by her dad's latest and greatest idea.
 
A veteran and POW, Ernt Allbright receives news that a fallen comrade has left his homestead as his legacy to Ernt.  In Alaska.  What better way to heal all wounds than to start fresh?
 
The Allbrights, Leni, her mother Cora, and Ernt, soon find themselves standing in the Alaskan wilderness, completely unprepared.  Hannah paints Alaska as a character in itself, so beautifully majestic that her deadliness is shocking and unexpected.  And the fear of what can kill you (which is pretty much everything) quickly moves from the outside into the home they have built from the shambles of their inherited house. 
 
Life quickly turns into a struggle for survival as Ernt becomes increasingly violent and abusive and the women have no choice but to somehow find a way out.  Find a way to survive. 
 
Guest Review by Kate Kelly
 
 

Loved It!

Dangerous Crossing: A Novel - Rachel Rhys

1939: Lily Shephard is on her way to Australia to work as a domestic. On board she meets some entertaining characters. There is a wealthy couple, Eliza and Max, who prefer to be below decks than their own deck. There is Edward who develops an attraction to Lily, and his sister who appears to be overprotective, Maria who is a Jewish refugee and then there is George, a fascist who is really an unlikeable fellow.

Lily finds herself caught up in the world that she would normally not be in. Dress balls, cocktail parties, a world that takes her to Naples, Cairo and Ceylon. All is well until it isn't, meaning that Maria disappears and it is thought that she jumped overboard. Lily also begins to see that Eliza and Max are not who they appear to be and George is sounding more dangerous in his beliefs as time goes on and his fascination with Lily proves to be dangerous to her. Who are these people that Lily has befriended? It seems that they are all running away from their past lives and secrets. Then there is a murder that has everyone reeling.

This novel starts out seeming to be one of a romantic voyage for Lily and a new life for her. Based on the diaries that the author found that belonged to Joan, a friend of her mothers. The diaries detail the voyage that Joan took to Australia. In it Joan told a myriad of details that included, the clothing, the price of things, who she met etcetera. I found this to be interesting in that Rachel Rhys was able to tell a story that contained a lot of real facts from a real person.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in two sittings! A historical fiction novel that had the world on the brink of war.

Burntown - Jennifer McMahon
Ten-year-old Miles wants to be Robin Hood.  He's playing in his backyard with a recent gift he received - a bow and arrow - while his mother suns herself nearby.  It all seems like a happy, typical Summer afternoon until a man walks up from out of the woods toward Mile's mother.  He leans over, whispers something in her ear, she looks up to smile at him and he slits her throat.  All the while wearing a chicken mask.
 

Years later, in a small mill town, Eva grows up watching her father create magical inventions in his small backyard shed.  His most famous and troublesome invention is based on plans he holds dearly.  Plans written by Thomas Edison.  Yes, the Thomas Edison, the lightbulb guy.  One of the most famous inventors of the modern world.

 
Eva's father is Miles, the now grown-up child that witnessed the brutal murder of his mother.
 
This machine, clunky and awkward and mysteriously unbelievable, can speak to the dead.  When Miles completes the build and Eva stumbles into the shed while it is running, she discovers the terrifying truth - that the machine is real.  
 
Tragedy strikes and the story becomes incredibly convoluted.  Storms rage the neighborhood and the nearby river floods, devastating everything in its path.  
 
Eva and her mother escape, but the death of Miles and Eva's brother, Errol, is the new reality that the women have to face.  They live on the streets and become involved with the infamous Fire Eaters.
 
The story gets more tangled from there and it's difficult to tell which way is up, what is truth and what is imaginary.  Unbelievable characters are introduced - a local school girl turned drug dealer, the cafeteria lady who believes herself to be part of a circus, Fred the strongman and local delivery guy, and a dangerous man known as Snake Eyes.
 
The story, while quite the page-turner, is difficult to follow at times.  Characters are introduced in a way that makes the story hard to follow at times, as the connections do not make sense until later in the novel.  Plot lines twist and turn, creating a definite page-turner, albeit a dark one.  
 
There is fantasy, romance, horror and a smidgen of comedy.  The book is a definite page turner, but not one of McMahon's best.  Burntown is a stunning blend of supernatural and thriller, but the ever-growing and complicated family tree is slightly maddening. 
 
Having read many of McMahon's books, there's one thing that can be said about this one - her ability to draw fear out of the reader is showcased incredibly in this novel.  A good read, but not her best.
 
Guest Review: By Kate Kelly

Another great book!

Our House - Louise Candlish

Can you imagine coming home and finding strangers moving into your home? That is what happens to Fiona Lawson one day. She knows she has not sold the house, she along with her husband do the co parenting thing, meaning that even though they are separated, they maintain the house for their kids and they switch off living in the house while keeping a separate flat for them to live in when they are not at the house. This arrangement works for a while until Fiona comes home on that fateful day. Not only does she come home to strangers moving in to her home, her estranged husband, Bram and her children seem to be missing. 

The story is told in a unique point of view, in each Fiona's and Bram's voice via a website called The Victim, an acclaimed crime podcast where each episode tells the true story of a crime that happens to the victim. Each episode continues the story of what happened to get the couple to where they are. Because of something Bram did, Fiona's life is escalating into a devasting secret that could cost her more than just her home.

I love a good psychological thriller and this is one of the best I have read in awhile! A story that kept me wanting more even after the last page! I highly recommend it!

Dead If You Don't by Peter James Review

Dead If You Don't (Roy Grace) - Peter James

Dead if You Don't is the 14th in the Roy Grace series. I have read a few of the books in the series, I actually have all of them and need to get on reading the ones that I have missed. That said, I really had no problem reading this one even though I did not read them in order.

 

When Kipp Brown and his son Mungo arrive at a football match Mungo disappears, Kipp thinks that he is just soothing his ego after they had had an argument about a cell phone. Mungo had broken his cell phone and Kipp got upset and bought him a cheapie of which Mungo took offense to.

 

When he receives the message that someone has his son and they are demanding a ransom. At the same time, someone has planted a bomb in the stadium. Roy Grace is brought in and does his heroic thing in getting rid of the bomb. I turned out to be a dud. But Roy still investigates the two cases which take him deeper into the workings of the Albanian mob located in Brighton. 

 

Kipp has a gambling problem and keeps on gambling even though he has no money to gamble with. This causes some problems as how is going to pay the ransom for the kidnapping of his son and does something illegal to get the money. The kidnapping itself is sketchy and as the story gets deeper we find that this is a complex story of murder and kidnapping, two as a matter of fact,  that I was not expecting. But of course that is how Peter James writes, always leave the reader wanting and expecting more. It took me a while to get into the story but that was because Mr.James was setting up the plot and characterization. Once I was into the story I did not want to put the book down.

 

I have been a fan of the Roy Grace series from the start and will continue to do so! I actually ordered one of his older books, The House on Cold Hill, not a Roy Grace novel but one I am sure to love.

 

I received this book for review purposes.

Beneath the Lighthouse

"Sixteen-year-old Jamie McGuiness's sister is dead." That grabbed me right away. Plus the cover has a ghost and a lighthouse. That really had me. Jamie is 16 and his sister died in a terrible way, presumably an accident. His mother hides in her grief. His father has resorted to alcohol to hide his grief. His father also beats him and his wife. Jamie tends to stay away most of the time and spends time with his friend.

Jamie starts to get a visitation from a ghost, she is trying to tell him something but Jamie can't quite figure out what she wants. He becomes caught in the spirit's world between the living and the dead. 

I was caught up in the story right away, I know this is a YA story but I didn't feel that was an issue. The characters were well written, the storyline believable, well you have to believe in ghosts of course..lol. Jamie has to come to terms with things he would rather leave alone. This is a coming of age story of love, despair, revenge, and retribution. I really felt for Jamie and cheered him on in his pursuit doing what he felt was right.
Great story!! Scary too!

The Season of Silver Linings

The Season of Silver Linings -  Christine Nolfi

The focus of this third book in the popular Sweet Lake Series is on Jada Brooks who is a pastry chef at the Wayfair Inn that she restored along with her friends Linnie and Cat. Linnie is getting married and Cat is a newlywed and they are both focused on other things. Jada is in a relationship of sorts with Philip Kettering. She is reluctant to take the relationship to the next level as Philip was kind of wild one in their school days. Philip has a young daughter that Jada has really gotten attached to and vice versa. 
Phillip's deceased wife committed suicide and Jada was with her and she carries the guilt of not being able to save her. 

An elderly woman arrives at the Inn asking a lot of questions about Jada and this puts Jada on edge as she does not know what the woman is after and she would rather keep the past in the past. Questions on both sides culminated in answers that Jada never expected. 

I read the first in the series but not the second, which is ok because they are all stand-alone novels. I enjoyed both of the books I read, the characters are believable and the friendship of the three friends is a sweet thing to behold. A series that has the reader wanting to read more about each of the women portrayed. I think if you love a book that is a sweet charming read, then this series is for you for sure!

The Other Woman

The Other Woman - Sandie Jones

“You’re never too old for your mum to care about you,” 
― Sandie JonesThe Other Woman

I never had the issue with a mother in law, but in reading this book, I find myself lucky I escaped this problem. That said, The Other Woman is a psychological thriller that has Emily, the book's protagonist, warring with her soon to be mother in law. Pammie has a very close relationship with her son Adam to the point of being obsessive. It seems that everything Emily does is judged by Pammie and Emily comes up lacking. Adam of course loves his mother but their relationship is kind of weird. Not matter what Emily tells him of what Pammie has said or done to her, Adam brushes it off as something that Emily is either taking too personally or it is not true.

I love a good psychological thriller that keeps you wanting more, page after page. The Other Woman definitely delivers on that score. Pammie is the woman you love to hate, I know I did! I highly recommend this debut novel! You won't regret it, a fast-paced read that is sure to please!

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36212848-the-other-woman?from_search=true

The Ever After

The Ever After - Sarah Pekkanen

How well do you really know your spouse or significant other?  Josie Moore thought she was in a happy marriage. What marriage doesn't suffer a setback or two? Two young children and a life in Chicago is all that she could dream of. A perfect life, until she borrows her husband's phone to make a quick call and sees a devasting text. She is absolutely thrown for a loop, her husband is having an affair. 

What happens is a personal discovery for Josie, she goes through all the emotions involved with the discovery that her husband isn't who she thought he was. She gets angry, wants to withdraw from life but then decides she wants to find out all she can about the other woman and how long this affair has been going on and what she may have done to cause Frank to stray. 

I could relate to this story as I went through the same thing, the anger, the hate for my spouse and the determination that I was going to persevere through the most devasting thing that can happen in a marriage. This story is told in different time frames, from the early days of Josie and Frank's marriage to the present.

This is the first book I have read by Sarah Pekkanen and I did enjoy it although I felt the ending was a bit short, kind of rushed but all in all a very engrossing story of a marriage in jeopardy.

Great Series!

Keep The Midnight Out - Alex Gray

Keep the Midnight Out is the 12th novel in the DCI Lorimer Series. This is the first that I have read in this series, but it did not deter me from reading further. The story actually is told in two parts, the first with the death of a young man, a gruesome cold case, whose was never identified or the murder solved. The second is about the murder of another young man and the similarities are too hard to ignore for DCI Lorimer, as he was the detective on the first.

Though I really enjoyed the murder mystery immensely, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of Glasgow and the characterization. The author's writing really sent me to the Isle of Mull, the sounds, the descriptions of the people and the talent of all of the people who solved the case. When I thought I had it figured out as to who the murderer was, new clues were thrown in and turned my thoughts all around.

I love to read mystery/thrillers and police procedurals and this one did not disappoint me at all, I really need to back and start the series from the beginning, but this can be read as a stand-alone! If you love a great story than Alex Gray's novels are sure to please!


Too Close to Breathe

Too Close to Breathe - Olivia Kiernan

The Irish are fantastic storytellers, and Olivia Kiernan proves that she is going to be one of the best. Too Close to Breathe is the first in the Frankie Sheehan mystery/thriller series and debut novel for her. 

 

Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan who four months earlier, was almost killed in an attack trying to apprehend a killer. When she is called to a Dublin suburb to investigate the supposed suicide of a woman, Eleanor Costello,  who is found hanging from a rope in her home. At first, it seems cut and dried and the case can be closed but after the autopsy report shows old wounds and broken bones Frankie realizes that this is not a suicide. Of course, the first suspect is the husband.

 

Another woman's body is discovered with the same MO as Eleanor's. Then Paul Costello is found and that really throws the investigation into a tailspin. Frankie is challenged with all she has to try to figure out what really happened. Frankie is a strong but flawed, a bit rough around the edges, woman who tries to take charge of her demons and keep an open mind in her investigation. With the help of her team, Frankie pulls out all the stops in this case.

 

Too Close to Breathe is a taut thriller that will have fans of Tanya French and Gillian Flynn excited to read this new author. I really loved the story and definitely want to read more from Olivia Kiernan. 

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