Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Ancestor By Danielle Trussoni (Book Feature)

(Photo Credit: Mina's Bookshelf)

 It's uncanny how a combination of paper and ink can cast a spell on the reader...around the physical presence of a well-crafted book, we can create a visual story made of long lost memories and family heirlooms.

 And so the ritual begins: The writer conjures into existence people and places, ghosts and shadows that haunt the meanders of her imagination, and readers find in fiction a safe place to rehash complicated feelings and what-ifs.

The Ancestor is a “dreamlike...suspenseful...modern gothic thriller” from the New York Times best selling author of Angelology, Danielle Trussoni. Her writing is always stylish and erudite ...it is such a joy to re-discover this novelist. The book, published by William Morrow on April 7, 2020, is marketed as "a bewitching gothic novel of suspense that plunges readers into a world of dark family secrets, the mysteries of human genetics, and the burden of family inheritance." I found these premises to be too alluring to pass up, not to mention my familiarity with the setting of the story: the protagonist, Alberta, a Hudson Valley resident at a crossroad in her life, finds herself to be the unexpected heiress of a large fortune and a castle in Italy, of all places. With the family estate and aristocratic title comes along a legacy of dark secrets and complicated repercussions...beyond her wildest dreams, or better yet, her wildest nightmares. For these intriguing reasons, The Ancestor is this month’s book recommendation. A review copy was graciously provided by the Publicist in return of an unbiased opinion. Review soon to come here, on Mina's Bookshelf. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Where To Begin by Cleo Wade (A Review)

About the Book

A Small Book About Your Power To Create Big Change In Our Crazy World
Cleo Wade
Published in October 8th 2019 by Atria Books
Hatdcover, 192 pages
Non-fiction, Poetry, Inspirational

My Review

***Review copy graciously offered by the Publicist in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

   "There are times when we must speak, not because you are going to change the other person, but because if you don't speak, they have changed you." And this is exactly what this lovely little hybrid of poetry and prose does in its understated and yet highly ambitious manner -- raise its voice to remind us with gentle vigour that hope of a better tomorrow is not magic; it is work. 

   Counterintuitively, for this revolution to have a massive effect, strong foundations, and a largely tangible scale, the spiritual work needs to start within a place of peaceful mindfulness and individual self-care. "We earn our optimism. We earn our hope. We do this by caring for ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically so that when we show up in the world, we are able to show up with the best of what is within us. When we show up as a person who is cared for and loved, we have the energy and ability to approach the world's problems with optimism and hope. When we are cared for, we are in the best possible head space and heart space to find solutions for our communities that are kind, humane, just, moral, and ethical."

   I would recommend this inspirational book to a wide and diversified audience, but mostly to our youngest readership on whose mistakenly fragile shoulders most significantly weighs the responsibility of building a "society rooted in love, acceptance, justice, and equality."

   I would also encourage the author, if she hasn't yet given this idea some consideration, to explore other communication media popular among many of us 'mystical readers' -- I see a deck of affirmation cards (in the vein of Gabrielle Bernstein and Tosha Silver) as a perfect companion to this book. To some degree, Where To Begin lends itself to that end: the author herself, Cleo Wade, devoted a handful of book pages to an interactive use with the readers. For some of the poems, she simply outlined the letters, and she invites us to fill them in with our favorite colored pencils and crayons, as a way for the readers to share with her the joy of the creation of the book. Ms. Wade's book has the built-in spiritual and motivational stamina of a mantra which, incorporated in a daily meditative practice, could have a surprisingly deep transformative power.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From the cover...

   With her lyrical, stirring mantras and affirmations, Cleo Wade’s second anthology of heartfelt poetry and prose builds on the wisdom of her bestselling book Heart Talk, encouraging you to remain hopeful and harness your personal power to bring positive change in our world.

   Where to Begin is perfect for those who are ready to be a part of building a society rooted in love, acceptance, justice, and equality.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Confessions Of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Flash Review)

Flash Review

The author weaves the gothic threads of this strong debut novel on a loom of historical plausibility and sensational 'grotesquerie'. You might not always, if not at all, "sympathize" with the "heroine" of this atrocious murder mystery plot, but her clever and lucid voice will get a hold of your attention for a good span of the book. 
My rating:  4 stars.

***Review copy generously offered by Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an unbiased opinion.

About the Book

Sara Collins
Published by Harper Collins
May 21, 2019
Hardcover, 384 pages
Historical Fiction, Mystery

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don't believe I've done?

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning - slave, [...], seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

In The Night Wood by Dale Bailey (Book Spotlight)

Favorite Quote

"Perhaps stories had no beginnings or endings at all. Perhaps they simply branched out forever, like rivers, one from another, enveloping you for your brief span, each life a story within a story, intersecting with thousands of other stories... ."
My rating: 5 stars

About the Book

Dale Bailey
Published by John Joseph Adams
(An Imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
October 9, 2018
Hardcover, 214 pages
Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic, Horror

In this contemporary fantasy, the grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist finds himself slipping inexorably into the supernatural world that consumed his subject.

American Charles Hayden came to England to forget the past.

Failed father, failed husband, and failed scholar, Charles hopes to put his life back together with a biography of Caedmon Hollow, the long-dead author of a legendary Victorian children's book, In the Night Wood. But soon after settling into Hollow's remote Yorkshire home, Charles learns that the past isn't dead.

In the neighboring village, Charles meets a woman he might have loved, a child who could have been his own lost daughter, and the ghost of a self he thought he'd put behind him.

And in the primeval forest surrounding Caedmon Hollow's ancestral home, an ancient power is stirring. The horned figure of a long-forgotten king haunts Charles Hayden's dreams. And every morning the fringe of darkling trees presses closer.

Soon enough, Charles will venture into the night wood.

Soon enough he'll learn that the darkness under the trees is but a shadow of the darkness that waits inside us all.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Marilla Of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy (Flash Review)

Flash Review

A bittersweet reacquaintance with self-restrained Marilla Cuthbert before "Anne Of Green Gables". The character created by L.M. Montgomery in 1908, and painted in the original novel as a spinster with no patience for sentiment or frivolity, is reinvented by Sarah McCoy with a deft hand: the historical lense the author uses to add dimension to her heroine is a poignant one. Nonetheless, the book left me unimpressed...for some reason, it didn't stir my enthusiasm. Writing a satisfying re-telling or prequel to a highly celebrated novel can be a tall order: I certainly applaud the author for taking the risk. 3 stars

***Review copy generously offered by Goodreads in return of an unbiased. And honest review.

About the Book

Sarah McCoy
Published by William Morrow
October 23, 2018
Paperback, 320 pages
Historical Fiction

A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Our House by Louise Candlish (Flash Review)

My Review

I finally decided to jump on the "marriage thriller" bandwagon, although not exactly keen on all the publishing brouhaha initiated by the "Gone Girl" phenomenon—not my cup of tea. I picked OUR HOUSE by Louisa Candlish anyway, drawn as I was by the theme of "house vs. home" in my recent reads (while a 'home' can never be destroyed or stolen, a 'house' can certainly be). The British writer, author of several suspense novels, delivers something that brings the "domestic noir" concept to a whole new disquieting level...definitely a must-read for fans of the sub-genre made popular by Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Liane Moriarty. If you are partial to tales of intimate betrayal and characters flawed beyond redemption, you will appreciate this harrowing exploration of the domestic sphere and its darkest corners. All characters here qualify as 'unlikable', but Candelish injects the story with such a 'pathos' that it will be hard not to be moved to a place of compassion as you witness the tragic undoing of a family and the loss of a house that failed in its role of 'nest', protective shelter, and center of gravity for its vulnerable inhabitants. A house...not a home. 3 stars

About the Book

Louise Candlish
Published by Berkley on August 7, 2018
Hardcover, 404 pages
Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird's nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

I Found You by Lisa Jewell (Flash Review)

Flash Review

"Modern, complex, intuitive" Lisa Jewell... I love everything she writes! This thriller didn't disappoint--a deliciously atmospheric and
suspenseful read for this last stretch of summer.
5 stars!

About the Book

Lisa Jewell
Published by Atria Books on April 25, 2017
Hardcover, 352 pages
Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Two women, twenty years of secrets and a man who can't remember lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell's brilliant new novel.