For Love and Honor by Jody Hedlund

for love and honor

Sir Bennet finds himself in a bit of a quandary.  His elder brother, Aldric, the Baron of Windsor, has made a mess of the family finances and it’s up to Sir Bennet to make things right.  An arranged marriage with wealthy Lady Sabine might just solve the problem.  Not knowing that she is on her way to meet her potential husband, Lady Sabine believes the reason for the trip to Maidstone Castle is to view the renowned relic collection housed there with the hopes of acquiring a few of the ancient pieces.  Little does she realize that the birthmark she hides beneath her glove will be proof enough to be labeled a witch, endangering her own life and the lives of all who surround her unless she is able to prove her innocence.

This novel is written with teens and young adults in mind.  The story is light and romantic. Lady Sabine are Sir Bennet are likable characters and their interactions during their courtship are entertaining.  The discussion questions that follow the story are designed to help teen girls reflect on their own lives.  This book would make a great addition to units on life in the 1300s, superstitions in medieval Europe and the belief systems of the time.

Although there is no Maidstone Castle in Hampton, where this story takes place, there is a castle near Maidstone which dates to the medieval ages.  The setting adds to the romantic nature of the story.

Set in the middle ages, the accusation of being a witch was a serious matter. A person could be accused of witchcraft for a number of reasons but one of the most common was having a witch’s mark in the form of moles, scars, or birthmarks.  Once accused, innocence could be proven through certain physical trials.

Water-ordeal
By Diebold Schilling the Younger

Three trials are mentioned in the story, although there were many more.  Trial by ordeal, where an accused witch was subjected to some sort of physical punishment.  Rapid healing of the wounds inflicted during the ordeal meant the accused was innocent.  However, if the wound became infected, he or she was guilty.  Trial by dunking was another common test.  The accused would be thrown into a body of water from a boat.  If the accused sank, innocence was the verdict and he or she would be pulled up into the boat.  If the accused floated, it meant he or she had renounced baptism by entering the Devil’s service.  The idea of water being so pure an element that it rejects the guilty originates with Pliney the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, BK VII (AD 70) which states that witches will never drown.

The third trial mentioned in the book was The Lord’s Prayer Test.  The accused is asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer.  If he or she is able to recite the prayer without misspeaking, then the accused would be declared innocent since it was thought that the Devil would not allow one of his servants to do so.

Get your copy here.  Read other reviews of the book here.

3 star

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Into Autumn by Larry Landgraf

into autumnInto Autumn by Larry Landgraf

Lars Lindgren is all ready when the grid suddenly goes down in the US.  Years before, he left civilization behind to become a wilderness man on 40 acres of undeveloped land along a small river someplace in Texas.  Shortly after the SHTF, Eileen, stockbroker and small-time gardener, shows up and stays.  Pretty soon, a little self-reliant community springs up including Reggie, with his well-stocked arsenal of weapons, his wife Emily, along with Sam and his wife Sally who raise livestock and children.  It’s becoming a veritable garden of Eden for these hardy folks who regularly pop over for a spot of tea.  Dinner conversations include this year’s projected harvest and the feasibility of blowing up the Tucker family across the highway.

Now, you know I’m all about reading end-of-the-world survival scenarios  It really tickles my funny bone to compare some of those outrageous stories with our actual experience of 10-years off-grid living. So, it will be no surprise to you that Into Autumn by Larry Landgraf gave me a few points to ponder.

The happy valley Lars and Eileen inhabit really is sort of a Prepper utopia.  With the neighbor’s stockpile of weapons and the other neighbor’s animal husbandry setup, Lars doesn’t even have to give up his daily bacon once the world beyond ceases to function. While there was a good overview of the solar panel system and a fair description of the wood stove, there were some aspects that weren’t covered at all, such as waste disposal.  Where did all the poop go?  Septic tank?  Piled in the bushes? Reused as humanure in the garden? (See Jawhole disaster)

How about birth control?  Sam and Sally are still well within childbearing age.  When Lars’ son and Reggie’s daughter get together, they immediately pop out a set of man-twins.  So what stops these obviously fertile couples from breeding like rabbits?  It’s not like there is any TV to watch to while away the evenings.  Apparently, no one thought to bring along the portable DVD player that could have run off the solar panels.  Ok, maybe this isn’t something the male author thought about. However, it is a valid issue.  I know that since moving to an area where birth-control is difficult to obtain (as well as discouraged from the pulpit), I certainly have noticed the rampant crops of babies harvested from the cabbage patch every year.  Why not in this happy valley?  Then again, maybe it would be too hard to keep the toddlers out of the minefield.

There seemed to be an inordinate amount of attention given to listing the essential items that the inhabitants were always running low on.  The list oft-repeated consisted of tea, coffee, salt, and sugar.  Evidently, having these luxuries would keep the little group from becoming animalistic and perhaps converting to cannibals as so happens in the zombie apocalypse scenarios.  I admit that salt is an essential element, but tea and coffee?  If you want a little variety in your beverages, there are oodles of options out there in the wild or easily grown in your own garden. 

I believe Preppers and wanna-be Preppers would enjoy Into Autumn by Larry Landgraf because they could compare their state of preparedness with that of the characters in the book, much as I did.  Those not so concerned about TEOTWAWKI won’t enjoy this book half as much.  

I wasn’t overly impressed with the writing style.  It seemed to be slow and ponderous for the most part. Although there were no grammar or spelling errors, the narration didn’t seem natural.  

3 starRead more about Into Autumn by Larry Landgraf.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.  Get your copy here.

When Leaves Fall by C.A. King


Ralph just can’t quite understand how he got to where he is, chained to a rickety shelter, and in pain from random beatings.  His life wasn’t always like this.  He remembers being loved, having regular meals and jumping in the fallen leaves.  As time passes, his despair turns to desperation.  How long is he to suffer?

dog2

When Leaves Fall by C.A. King is a short, young adult novel told through the perspective of an abused canine.  As we’ve had more than our share of doggy family members, the story appealed to me emotionally. 

dog1

Chained, malnourished dogs are a common sight here in Mexico, especially with types of dogs bred for fighting.  In January of 2017, the Mexican Congress passed a law that takes the country one step closer to ensuring this inhumane activity can be penalized throughout the country. (See Mexico says ‘no mas’ to dogfighting) In June of the same year, the law was finally approved. Dog fighting is illegal in Mexico, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and $8,300 USD in fines.  If the offender is a Mexican public official, jail time is increased up to 7.5 years. (See Dog fights as sport now illegal in Mexico

dog3

Although I enjoyed When Leaves Fall by C.A. King, there were a few things that I think the author could have done to add to Ralph’s story.  First, Ralph is never identified by breed, so the reader never gets a clear picture of Ralph.  I understand that the author wanted to be inclusive by implying that this could happen to any type of dog classified as “dangerous” but I felt it detracted from the story. While I was reading, I was jumping back and forth with different dog bodies trying to get a good image of Ralph in my mind. 

Secondly, the section of the book that was not told through Ralph’s eyes didn’t seem realistic to me.  Would a woman return an engagement ring in a courtroom over animal abuse?  Although there are established ties between animal abuse and domestic violence (How Are Animal Abuse and Family Violence Linked? ), statistics show that it takes some time for a woman to leave an abusive relationship permanently. (See Eliminate That Seven Times Statistic, 50 Obstacles to Leaving: 1-10).  Is it realistic to believe that what happened to Ralph was enough to save Syndey and her unborn child from the potentially abusive relationship?

Interestingly, many of Ralph’s thoughts as a victim mirror what the mental process of a human victim of abuse. (See EFFECTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DOMESTIC ABUSE (ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN).

3 star

Animal lovers and compassionate young adult readers will enjoy When Leaves Fall by C.A. King.  As the writing is somewhat simplistic in an effort to present the situation through the dog’s eyes, this book might not appeal to everyone.

Read more about this book here.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.

the hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

the hideaway

Sara Margaret Jenkins has just inherited her grandmother’s dilapidated bed and breakfast in Sweet Bay, Alabama.  Forced to leave behind her New Orlean’s business to attend to the numerous details, she discovers a bit of mystery surrounding her grandmother Mags.  Sara has a chance at a new life in Sweet Bay if she can find the strength to stay.  After all, not all stories end happily ever after.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton is a romantic novel about new beginnings.  The story is told in overlapping chapters, past, and present, grandmother and granddaughter. Even though the book begins with Mags’ death, her story is told through her own eyes as Sara pieces together the clues left.

I enjoyed both stories although perhaps Mags story just a wee bit more.  Her in life in the 1960s, with its expectations and issues, was masterly crafted.  The characters that arrived and stayed or left in The Hideaway were diverse and interesting.  It would be a real treat to hear William, Dot, Mrs. DeBerry, Daisy, Starla, Glory, Major, Bert, and even Robert’s stories as well.

One issue I was a little confused about was the ownership of the house.  Originally, the bed and breakfast was run by Mrs. DeBerry who leaves the business in dire financial straits.  Legally, how did Mags obtain the title?  Then just how exactly does the town of Sweet Bay use eminent domain when the legitimate owner has due process rights?  Of course, knowing the details isn’t essential to enjoying the story but it would add an additional element of realism.
The Hideaway by  Lauren K. Denton is a delightful light read.  You won’t be disappointed with this one!

four star

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell

vacation to graceland

Even the best-laid travel plans go astray.  Often the most anticipated aspect of the trip has some drawbacks. Wouldn’t you agree? Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell is no exception to Murphy’s Law.

Scooter joy riding Granny, grouchy mom, financially strapped sister Crissy, her two kids, and the narrator head to Memphis for a family reunion barbecue. Hitting the road early to make the family fish fry is complicated by a quick stop at Kmart, another stop for lottery tickets, heading across town to pay a bill, faulty GPS knowledge, hunger, crankiness, hotel reservation issues, parking problems, exorbitant prices and a wrong turn or two. It’s a good thing that all’s well that ends well.

The misadventures that occur in Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell are typical of any family trip and as a result were quite humorous.  I felt like I was stuffed in the backseat along with them on the trip, and none too comfortable either, I must admit.  It was a quick, entertaining read.

However, there were some grammatical issues that I was not sure whether to chalk up to local vernacular, intentional errors representing the narrator’s natural speech patterns, or author mistakes.  There were errors in noun and verb use (sale/sell), homophone confusion (isle/aisle), misspelling mistakes (intensions/intentions), inconsistent spelling (gripping/griping), missing apostrophes (trips expenses/trip’s expenses), verb and adjective mix-ups (drunken/drunk), and words I just couldn’t figure out what they were meant to convey (My mom hackled me?).  Far be it for me to criticize overmuch.  I’ve been known to have language issues myself.   After all, there was that official police visit that had me imagining house stealers and that “go and see if the sow laid eggs” Mexican Spanish expression that caused me some grief. (See Who’s on first in Spanglish and Learning and Teaching–Language)

As most people have had their fair share of road trip disasters, the majority of readers will find something to relate to and laugh about in this book.  I mean, who hasn’t been squashed next to bickering children in the back seat?  If you prefer not to relive such traumatic experiences ever, perhaps this isn’t the book for you.  My overall rating was influenced by the above mentioned grammatical problems. 

3 star

Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.  Get your copy here.

One Last Lie by Rob Kaufman

one last lie

Jonathan and Philip are approached by an old college friend of Phillip’s with an interesting proposition.  Angela offers to have their child.  Thrilled at the prospect of becoming fathers, they little realize the depths of deception that Angela has planned nor the price they will have to pay.

One Last Lie by Rob Kaufman was a page turner!  I was on the edge of my seat as each layer of the story was revealed.  Clues to the conclusion are scattered throughout the story, however, the “last lie” remained shrouded until close to the end.

The story has multiple perspectives so that the reader is able to see the horror unfold, yet helpless to do anything about it.  The characters were well-developed, both the principal players and minor personas. Rationales for the ultimate decisions made by the characters are hinted at but not spelled out. There’s an element of chance throughout it all.

The majority of the story is set in Connecticut, on streets that I visited as a child, which for me added just a little extra realism.  The author did a fabulous job setting the scene.  Things like this just don’t happen in upper-middle-class America, or do they?

four star

It was well written, with nary an error found. Unfortunately,  I don’t think this book is for everyone.  It’s not a pleasant read.  There’s no happy ever after ending given.  I would even say that it just might be too real for some.  Who knows why people do what they do?  Who knows why bad things happen? It would be easy to say that horrible things are perpetrated by those who have some sort of mental illness. In fact, the book suggests that. However, can that explain the permissiveness or blindness of those who interact with such people on a daily basis?

This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day. Read more about this book here. Get your own copy here.

If the Bed Falls In by Paul Casselle

if the bed falls in

Tom Friday is a slightly overweight struggling photographer battling middle age lethargy, or is he?  One day, just like any other day in his humdrum life, Tom wakes up in Joseph Miller’s car in West London.  The Beretta PX4 Storm in the glove box comes in handy when Tom decides to check out Joseph’s home and meets some bad guys.  Characters in Tom’s life start overlapping those in Joseph’s world.  Is Sarah Tom’s long-time platonic friend or Tilda, Joseph’s dead wife?  Accents start changing as well. Preston, a casual acquaintance of Tom’s, formerly a British up and coming artist, now has a pronounced Baltimore twang. Is it a cocaine-induced hallucination or is there something to this cloak and dagger stuff?  

I was surprised to find that what I believed to be a British spy novel actually was a Prepper conspiracy theory book in disguise. Somehow Amschel Rothschild was involved in Tom/Joseph’s identity crisis along with the incorrectly misattributed quote “Let me control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”  That opened a whole new can of worms which included the CIA,  the Federal Reserve, and the fictional US President Harrington.  

Much to my delight, I learned some new vocabulary in the course of reading If the Bed Falls In by Paul Casselle.  Did you know that the term Limey is a slightly derogatory term used to refer to a British person?  It comes from the practice of British sailors sucking on limes to prevent scurvy and is North American in origin.  A mortise is a hole cut in a door frame designed to meet up with the lock section in the door once the key is turned. Scrumping is the act of stealing withered apples usually by scaling a wall or fence. Unfortunately, I’m still not quite clear what the adverb bolshily might be, possibly coming from the word boshy.

The desk clerk, Cyril, was my absolute favorite character in the book.  Remicient of Angus Bough, Johnny English’s assistant, he does whatever he can to aid his favorite hero.

3 star

Will you enjoy reading  If the Bed Falls In by Paul Casselle?  If you enjoy spy novels, then yes.  If you don’t, well, then no.

Read more about this book here.  Get your own copy here.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.

Cancelled: The Ultimate October Surprise by Michael Pinsky

cancelled

Cancelled: The Ultimate October Surprise by Michael Pinsky

It’s June before the 2016 US elections and things are a bit out of the ordinary.  Business tycoon Austin Howard is the unlikely dark-horse for the Republicans.  A former senator, Secretary of State and former First Lady Samantha Thompson is battling it out at the Democratic primaries with Senator Leland Anthony, the popular favorite.  While the public is being entertained by the mud-slinging Presidential candidate debates, General William Mendenhall, retired commander, becomes increasingly alarmed about the underlying motives for the Presidential orders that cut military spending but increase militarization of federal agencies.  The whole world is watching as the days count down to the election.

Although Cancelled: The Ultimate October Surprise by Michael Pinsky is a work of fiction, a number of characters could be easily identified as having some basis in reality.  This added to the intrigue and the what-if scenarios but also was a little confusing.  For instance, several actual episodes of the Trump/Clinton race are presented through the eyes of Austin Howard of Samantha Thompson, thereby accrediting things not known to be true as motives for the real events.  Then worldwide terrorist attacks were mentioned in the text, along with fictionalized attacks making it difficult to keep the parallel universes straight at times.  Despite this, the political story that unfolded was riveting.  Perhaps there is something to all those conspiracy theories after all.

I had more trouble following the covert military sections.  Instead of prose, most of the story was advanced through dialogue.  There were multiple characters to keep track of including retired and active duty military personnel, senators, governors, and terrorists.  Not being terribly military aware, I couldn’t say if the maneuvers were more or less authentic or boys playing soldier.

If you followed the 2016 elections as carefully as I did, I believe you would enjoy this book.  If you are following the political developments under POTUS 45 since his election, I believe you would find the book incredibly interesting.  Could the events that are depicted in this fiction book actually happen?  Only time will tell.

3 star

I could not, in all conscience, rate this book higher, however much I enjoyed it, because of the number of typographical errors and poorly worded sentences.  The dialogue was forced and repetitive in many instances.  A good editor would be able to fix these errors and add to the quality of the book.

This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.  Click here to see other great titles.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Illusions, pretense, secrets and lies. When a man dies at his own resurrection, escape artist Wren Lockhart, former apprentice to the great Harry Houdini, takes center stage in the investigation. Encompassing the years 1907-1927, from Washington, DC to Massachusetts, crossing the ocean to include England and France, the layers of mystery surrounding her are a puzzle for Agent Elliot Matthews to solve. What roles do magic, sleight of hand and faith play in Victor Peale’s death?

Harry Houdini and Dorothy Young on stage.

Fictional character Wren Lockhart was inspired by the real-life entertainer Dorothy Young, stage assistant to Harry Houdini.  The premise of this novel is a comment Houdini made about returning from the dead, that “it’s humanly impossible.”  After being convinced of the fraudulent nature of mediums, he spent considerable effort debunking various spiritualists of the time. (See also Houdini and the Supernatural, Houdini’s Greatest Trick: Debunking Medium Mina Crandon, Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle: a friendship split by spiritualism, Harry Houdini Investigates the Spirit World, Houdini: Magician, Spiritualist, or Skeptic?)

Houdini, the magician who debunked magic, could not bear to see the great rationalist (Arthur Conan) Doyle enchanted by ghosts and frauds. And so he did what any friend would: He set out to prove spiritualism false and rob his friend Doyle of the only comforting fiction that was keeping him sane. It was the least he could do.—John Hodgman

Following in her mentor’s footsteps, Wren uses her knowledge about performing and sleight of hand to assist the investigation into the resurrection of Victor Peale performed by self-proclaimed magician Horace Stapleton. The historical details that have been included in this novel give the reader a glimpse into the brilliant vaudeville world of the 1920s. The suspense built by brief looks into Wren’s long-buried past and the developing criminal case, as well as a blossoming romance, made the entire reading experience quite enjoyable.

A thoroughly delightful read.  Get your copy here.

5 star

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”