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review 2018-01-16 07:46
Beautiful, terrifying, spellbinding and vivid; it’s easy to see why this is a YA horror classic
Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake

How had I not read this amazing ghost story, filled with blood and a touch of romance before now? Spurred on by the fact the author Kendare Blake will be here in town for a signing, and me just knowing by looking at the cover that I was going to love the book (and therefore read it at my usual breakneck speed), I had to read this at last. I know Blake has new books out but it's easy to see why this has become the sort of book that people recommend when you ask ' do you know of any good YA ghost stories?'. Well, yes, I do.

 

This is a 'new' classic: there's the chilling haunted house, the handsome ghost hunter Cas, the terrifying, beautiful ghost of Anna, and a tale that doesn't let up until the very last page. It's gory, funny, romantic, vivid, and just a brilliant piece of writing. It's also heartbreaking, and not just a fluffy piece of young adult literature. The best part of waiting a few years before getting to a book is that the second one has already been written! Nothing but good things to say about a very dark and chilling but fantastic novel. Instant favorite. 

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review 2018-01-15 18:38
The Futures - Anna Pitoniak

"THE FUTURES" has all the hallmarks that make for a compelling, well-written novel. It has a palpable sense of time and place that is readily relatable to any reader. And characters - both major and minor - who spring immediately to life within the first few pages or chapters. What's more: for anyone who has gone through and/or graduated from college or university and then found him/herself at a loss what to do with their life for 2 or 5 years afterward, this is a novel that will give some added perspective to that earlier time of being.

"THE FUTURES" largely revolves around the lives of Evan Peck and Julia Edwards. (The reader is presented with the experiences - separate and shared - of Evan and then Julia across different chapters. Kudos to the author for being able to so deftly place herself in a man's mind.) Evan hailed from a small town in the interior of Western Canada, where his parents had a small grocery business. It was the kind of town that maintained its own slow, measured rhythms. Its inhabitants tended to have modest ambitions and most never left town after graduating from high school. Evan, on the other hand, was one of the few who dared to believe that he could become a part of the wider world, and thrive therein. Hockey was his passion and through it, he secured a scholarship to Yale University in 2004. There, he made the acquaintance of Julia, who came from a well-to-do family in Boston with connections. (Her father was a high-powered lawyer.) They - both freshmen - began as friends and, gradually, that seemingly easy and comfortable friendship blossomed into a romantic relationship. 

What I loved most about "THE FUTURES" is how skillfully Anna Pitoniak was able to make plain and REAL the lives of both Evan and Julia, and how their relationship developed, flourished, and later fell apart. From Yale to post-graduate life together in a modest, walk-up apartment in Brooklyn in the summer of 2008. I'm not going to say much more than that - except that the immediate impact of the 2008 economic crisis is as much a major factor in influencing the heart of the novel as the characters themselves who strut themselves upon the stage in a city that never sleeps. 

Here are a few quotes to give you a flavor of what makes "THE FUTURES" compelling and self-revelatory:

Julia: "I could close my eyes, and the sounds of the party weren't so different from those in college, but I wasn't tricking myself. The feeling in the air had changed. There was a whole world out there, beyond wherever we were gathered. It didn't matter whether it was a cramped walk-up or a tar rooftop or a weedy backyard strung with lights. How you spent your time was suddenly up to you."

Julia: "I suppose, at the time [September 2008], I didn’t understand how rapidly my feelings toward Evan were evolving. ...We’d fought in college, but those fights always felt specific; firewords that faded into smoke as fast as they arrived. But in New York, in the real world, every annoyance and disagreement felt like a referendum on our relationship. The bitterness started to linger. I was seeing growing evidence of why this was never going to work.” 

Hands down, "THE FUTURES" is THE BEST NOVEL I've had the pleasure of reading so far in 2018.

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review 2018-01-15 16:27
Anna Blanc is bored
The Secret Life of Anna Blanc - Jennifer Kincheloe

Anna is a wealthy 1907 Los Angeles woman who is fascinated by Sherlock Holmes and convinced that she could do as well. However her father is determined to marry her off and is determined that she will be a respectible bride.  She yearns for adventure and when she hears about an opportunity to become a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department she is determined to try.

 

So she tries and she finds that it's not as easy as it looked but it is fulfilling and she's finding purpose and a distraction in a detective Joe Singer, but he's involved in a series of brothel murders, she must find the killer because she's starting to know these girls and they don't deserve it.

 

Interesting take and interesting twists.  I liked seeing how Anna Blanc changed her mind about things and was able to learn from experience. But she was very impulsive the whole way through.

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review 2018-01-13 13:33
A Study In Death
A Study in Death - Anna Lee Huber

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Series: Lady Darby Series # 4

Rating: 3.5 stars

 

This was an enjoyable read. I did like that we got to see Kiera and Gage prepare for their wedding by addressing issues in their relationship rather than focusing on the dress. It was realistic and romantic. Though I no doubt will be reading the novella A Pressing Engagement with a smile.

 

The tension provided by her sister's pregnancy was well done. I like Philip and Alana as characters so I had a real worry about how the birth of their next child would affect them.

 

The mystery overall was well done. I thought it was someone else, so I was surprised. The Bonnie Brock involvement adds just the right amount of tension to Gage and Kiera's love story.  His motivations for still engaging with Kiera go beyond a debt because of her help I think. And I don't know what Ms. Huber plans on doing with him in the future. It leaves me unsettled but in a way that will keep me reading the series.

 

Overall, I recommend this series. 

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review 2018-01-10 12:50
The Victorian Christmas
The Victorian Christmas - Anna Selby

by Anna Selby

 

Non-fiction

 

This is a nice collection of information about British Victorian Christmas traditions and where they actually originated. It includes the Pagan origins of the date for Christmas and the Germanic background to Christmas trees and to putting charms into the Christmas pudding, as well as a comprehensive recipe for making a traditional Christmas pudding from a Victorian hand-written recipe book. It also details what contributions the Victorians added to our modern view of Christmas, including the pudding and the slow adaptation in modern times to Christmas Cake. I had to smile at the suggestion that the transition was due to making the cake without alcohol, as my family recipe for Christmas Cake uses nothing but brandy for the liquid in the recipe.

 

It's a well-researched book that goes into every possible Christmas tradition, including the origins of Christmas cards and singing carols. There is a wealth of old recipes, many from the Mrs Beaton Cookbook for things like traditional Wassail, gingerbread in various forms and mincemeat, as well as a vast array of recipes for cooking a spectrum of meats that Victorians from different stratas of society might include in their Christmas feast.

 

Christmas decorations and the origins of many of the traditions for those are explained followed by the background to Panto and Boxes, two things still common in England though not well known in the U.S.

 

While I'm not likely to use the wealth of recipes provided, their historical significance makes them of interest. Also included are the lyrics for many old Christmas carols, script samples from mummer's plays and an excerpt from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Whether these are historically significant or filler could be a matter of opinion.

 

The book finishes off with related New Year traditions and some information that the date for Christmas has actually moved from the new year dates over time and changing calendars, which I didn't know before.

 

As a reference book this is very thorough and professionally presented. It's not always riviting reading, but most reference books aren't.

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