The Book Diva's Reads
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- Guardian of Eden
on May 27, 2011
To say that The Guardian of Eden deals with complicated issues is an understatement. This book portrays child neglect and abandonment, dysfunctional family drama, child abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, incest, molestation, and murder. When we first meet Garrett he is a happy 5 year old child living with his paternal grandmother. He has never met his parents and only knows that his father is in prison. It is not until his grandmother dies that he meets his mother, his very pregnant mother - Holly. He is stunned to find out that she is white, and her boyfriend at the time is stunned to find out that her son is black. His mother shortly gives birth to Garrett's half-sister, Eden and his life begins to dramatically change.
Over the years Garrett has assumed the role of protector of his younger sister, often missing school to take care of her, as well as tend to his mother. Not to sound trite, but to say that Holly has issues is again an understatement. She is needy in so many ways and often attempts to drown her sadness and sorrows in alcohol or drugs, which means neglecting not only herself but her children. Things seem to change for the better when she meets and then marries a successful photographer, Corbin. Corbin decides he wants to make them all a real family and tries to adopt Eden and Garrett. This decision results in Garrett meeting his birth father for the very first time, in prison. Even though there is apparently a stable adult in the picture, Garrett still insists on protecting his mother and Eden. It doesn't help that at only 11 Eden is 5'8" tall and beautiful. None of these people are perfect, although they may appear to be superficially. They are all tall, beautiful, smart and flawed. Garrett evidently scored a perfect SAT score when he was in the 9th grade and had a 4th grade reading ability when he was only 5 years old. Both he and Eden show an aptitude for the linguistic arts and are quite fond of poetry.
Enter Madison McPhee, the daughter of a US Senator and presidential candidate. She and Garrett hit it off immediately and begin a tumultuous relationship. Madison is somewhat afraid to tell her father about Garrett but only because her father is extremely over-protective. Eden is jealous of all of the time that Garrett is spending with Madison. Garrett is feeling that he's letting Eden down and is considered inferior by Madison. Just when you think things couldn't possibly get worse, Eden is hospitalized and it comes out that she was raped.
I enjoyed this story up to the end. I found it hard to believe that Garrett could receive "psychological treatment" for a number of years for his "anger management" issues and nothing ever be resolved. Why doesn't the psychologist suggest a referral to another counselor if he isn't able to help? Why doesn't the social worker step in and try a different counselor if this is an ongoing issue? I know, children fall through the cracks of our social services system daily, but this didn't seem to make much sense. The story is often gritty and ugly but then so are the indignities these children are forced to suffer. This is not a light-hearted read but it does pack a punch.
- Death by Honeymoon (Book #1 in the Caribbean Murder Series)
on June 01, 2011
Death by Honeymoon by Jaden Skye packs a punch. This novel is short in length but contains good writing, a great story line, and interesting characters. The premise is that Cindy's husband Clint dies under tragic yet mysterious circumstances during their honeymoon on Barbados. Cindy is bereft over Clint's death and eventually comes to believe that his accidental death was anything but accidental. Of course no one believes her, including her sister Ann. Until Ann drives Cindy's car to run errands and finds that the brakes don't work. If things aren't bad enough Cindy has to contend with in-laws that are blaming her for husband's death.
Cindy isn't willing to back down from her theories and launches her own investigation into Clint's death and returns to Barbados. Was Clint's murder related to his job? What could possibly have been so important to kill for? Will Cindy find the answers before she becomes the next victim? Cindy may have spent the first three weeks after Clint's death moping and grieving but she makes up for lost time. Death by Honeymoon makes a perfect weekend read for anyone interested in a quick-read suspense story.
on June 29, 2011
How far is too far seems to be the question raised in Half-Inch by McCarty Griffin. Pammy Hilts is an abused wife. Her husband, Bobby, has moved out and filed for divorce. Pammy has put up with 12 years of physical, emotional, mental and verbal abuse. She has been cut off from all of her friends and has no skills. All that's left are her dreams and she is beginning to dream of revenge.
Pammy knows that Bobby isn't going to leave her alone even after a divorce. Although Bobby has moved out and apparently has a new love interest, she knows the abuse will continue. What's a girl to do other than get rid of the problem permanently? Pammy has obvious problems with the notion of taking a life, no matter the circumstances, and most of this short tale deals with this conflict. At first glance Pammy may seem to be a poor, downtrodden and ignorant woman, but she proves otherwise. At times sad and other times funny (tongue-in-cheek), Half-Inch is a story about survival. This is a quick read that is perhaps perfect for a lunch break or a lazy afternoon.
on July 09, 2011
Amy Tupper has provided a slightly different coming-of-age story in Tenderfoot. Julianna, or Jules, is starting college when she notices that her sight has changed. She can read the text in a book from across the room. She can also hear through walls and her sense of taste has gone completely wild (she can actually picture the surroundings of an animal when eating meat and diary products). If that wasn't weird enough, she can also "hear" the thoughts of others, okay not everyone but just one person . . . Nicholas "Nick" Grimm. Jules learns that Nick is a troll or faery and basically her protector. He was also her mother's protector and her grandmother's protector. Nick has been protecting the special women in her family for generations.
College is hard enough without throwing all of the faery items into the mix but add some romance and Tenderfoot raises the ante. Jules learns to handle college, even the boring aspects. Jules also must come to grips with her "romance" with Andrew, another freshman and fencer extra ordinaire. Tenderfoot realistically explores the drama and angst of college while adding first love and faery lore into the mix. Jules doesn't weave spells, she can't fly, and she doesn't have superhuman strength. She does have grit and determination and is a likable character.
- Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)
on July 09, 2011
Is it normal to have had imaginary friends and an overactive imagination? Perry Palamino lives with these questions in the paranormal/horror story Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1) by Karina Halle.
In some ways Darkhouse seems to be a coming-of-age story with Perry learning to deal with her differences. The problem is that Perry apparently sees dead people and always has. Her younger sister, Ada, the fashionista, makes reference to Perry scaring her with this ability as a young child. Although Perry is 22 years old and gainfully employed -- as a receptionist at an advertising agency, she feels unsure of herself and where she needs to be and go in life. To make matters worse, she was an extremely troubled teen and dabbled in drugs, alcohol and even cutting to help deal with her inner pains. Perry now feels that she owes her parents some normalcy. But Perry isn't "abnormal" she just has an ability that others don't have and can't quite understand . . . the ability to see ghosts.
During a trip to the coast to visit family, Perry decides to explore an old, defunct lighthouse. Of course she's exploring it late at night and no one knows where she's gone (wouldn't be as dramatic otherwise). She's spent the day photographing nature and still has her camera, which is a good thing, because her dreams (or rather nightmares) have just come to life. Fortunately she is able to film some of her ghostly encounters but she also encounters Declan "Dex" Foray, a cameraman/producer of webcasts. Perry has the opportunity to write about this incident when Ada is down-and-out due to a virus and unable to post to her fashion blog. Perry's ghostly encounter video becomes viral and Dex returns with the offer to host a webcast on ghost hunting.
What follows are a series of unfortunate encounters with an elderly woman that only Dex and Perry can see, and this serves to heighten the fear factor when they return to the lighthouse. Is the lighthouse haunted or is it simply evil? Are Dex and Perry "crazy" or simply in touch with energies other's can't see or feel? Where will these abilities lead them? Ms. Halle has crafted a dark story filled with horrifying moments. For me this was simply an okay read (I didn't connect to this story). Darkhouse is well written and the characters are believable with all of their idiosyncracies and eccentricities.
- Memories for Sale
on July 19, 2011
This is a story about a mother with a cancer diagnosis, an estranged daughter, a grandchild that has never been seen and a desire to make amends. Like many parents, Eleanor thinks that providing money for her granddaughter will make amends for never having seen her, so she decides to sell her collection of ceramics. Each ceramic item is tied to a memory, so she truly is putting her memories up for sale. The basic premise for the story is nice enough. The only character that the reader gets any true insight into is Eleanor, but as the main character that is acceptable. I found Memories for Sale to be a decent and quick read but one that was quickly forgotten after completion.
- 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens
on Dec. 08, 2011
Imagine you can go back and live an alternate life. You make different choices and have different experiences with potentially different people. Perhaps it means no kids, a different career choice, a different spouse or perhaps no spouse at all. Are you willing to make that choice? You only have a few seconds to decide, so what do you do? This is the dilemma that faces five friends on the eve of 12/21/2012 in 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma Alexander.
Olivia, John, Quincey, Ellen and Simon have no idea what's in store for them on this wintry December evening. They haven't really been in contact with one another since college and that's been over twenty years ago. It seems quite fortuitous that they agree to meet at an old college hangout, Spanish Gardens, on the evening that the world is supposed to come to an end. They are all greeted by an enigmatic gentleman, ostensibly the bartender, Ariel. Ariel doesn't really intrude in their evening but he does seem to provide them all with interesting yet profoundly insightful statements. And it the mysterious Ariel that provides all five with the ultimate decisions of go back in time, live an alternate life and stay in that alternate history or return and continue with the present history.
Simon is the last to enter the restaurant and the first to experience an alternate past. In this life he suffers through the premature death of both parents due to a car accident and is raised by his maternal grandmother. He becomes a respected university professor and restarts a world-renowned, university-founded literary magazine. He also becomes instrumental in the success of several students turned authors. His choice is to stay in this life without children or spouse or return to his life with a wife, children and fame as an author. Is his fame more important than his students? What choice will he make?
John was the proverbial wild child. Once he learned about his inauspicious origins and his father's behavior he no longer wants to be the good child that follows in his father's footsteps or so he thinks. In his alternate life he does become a doctor and eventually gives his life over to philanthropy by working with Doctors Without Borders. It is rather ironic because with the exception of working as a physician in one life, John's lives mirror one another. In one he is alone and travels the world as an organizer for aid and relief with UNESCO and in the other he is also alone and travels the world to give aid and relief as a doctor. Which life is preferred since they are so closely aligned?
Quincey and Ellen are both faced with truly life altering alternate pasts. Quincey must decide if marriage (even the one that didn't work out), children and being a single mom are more important that an unexpected but deeply rewarding love. Ellen is also faced with the choice of children vs. no children, but her choice is even more difficult as her alternate past is as a completely different person altogether. Olivia is the first person that we meet in this tale and her alternate life is the last presented. Her choices are just as difficult, but she seems to have a better grasp on what mistakes not to make in this lifeline. I won't mention the details of her alternate life or the choices that she has to make, but it is Olivia's story that ultimately ties the others together and provides clarity. All five friends are faced with impossible choices. Fortunately once they make a final choice their alternate life becomes nothing more than a blur of possibilities.
Everyone likes the idea of going back and changing things, possibly righting the wrong decisions or simply making a different decision. Ms. Alexander shows that this is not always as easy as we think. I have to say that I rather enjoyed this story. There were moments when I wasn't sure about the story simply because of long and rambling sentences, use of terms such as susurrus and serried (yes I had to look them up, see below), or seemingly disjointed conversations. But even with these issues I continued on and was pleasantly surprised by the intriguing stories. I became invested in learning more about the characters and wanted to see what choices they would make. In the end I was thoroughly and pleasantly surprised by just how much I liked 2012: Midnight In Spanish Gardens.