Book Review: Blood Ties

Blood Ties (Castings Trilogy, Book 1)

Blood Ties by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Ties is the first book in The Castings Trilogy. It is also the first adult fiction novel the author has published,as she usually writes for children. I have read several of her children’s books and enjoyed them immensely. This book was no exception. In fact, it has qualities that make it stand apart from her previous writings. If you are a fan of the author, then you definitely will not be disappointed with Blood Ties.

The story is well written – smooth and interesting. The characters are not perfect people, which make them realistic, and they are likable and well rounded. And the world is believable yet enchanting.

I was especially impressed with the flow of the story. It is so easy to read, which makes it almost impossible to put down. From what I’ve heard, the second book (Deep Water) is quite the page turner so I’m looking forward to reading it soon. Another unique quality of the book is what I call the mini-stories of the minor characters. They give the story depth and allow the reader to view storylines from different perspectives, which is brilliant.

In all honesty, Blood Ties is the best adult novel I’ve read in a while. I highly recommend it.

Prosperity

Prosperity by Deborah Woehr is a ghost story set in USA. It’s about a woman who finds herself stuck in one of those freaky towns in the middle of nowhere. You know the type of place I mean, where all the locals are totally mixed up or just plain crazy. That alone makes it spooky. The one thing I can definitely say about this story is that it would make me think twice about driving (or should I say stopping) at a town like this if I were ever to visit the States. That…is unlikely to happen, so I should have no fears where that’s concerned.

The author has thought out the complicated plot line really well. The characters are well developed. And the setting is true to life (or as true to life as any non-American can tell anyway).

I do, however, have two complaints about the book. First, there is a lot of sexual references and swearing. Both do fit in with the characters and the plot, so neither of these things are in fact wrong and I doubt they could be called gratuitous, but for me it was too much. It all comes down to personal taste. Second, the third chapter (I think) introduced a lot of characters all at once and I became totally confused. My mind isn’t what it used to be, so it might just be me. I really don’t know. It took a while to work out who was doing what after that, which distracted me from the story, but once I got the characters sorted I settled back into the plot and the events took me through to the end.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot was complicated and the author did an awesome job bringing it all together. There was a nice (definitely not the right word for this story, but I don’t want to give anything away in case you are intending to read the book) twist near the end that I didn’t see coming, followed by a moment of uncertainty where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen. That moment left me thinking about choices we might make if we were thrown in a similar situation.

If you like a well written ghost story and you don’t mind swearing, then you should consider reading this book.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells the story of a man sentenced to ten years in a Russian work camp for being a spy, even though the accusation is false. However, Ivan is wise enough not to make waves or he might find another ten years put on top of his existing sentence. He also knows that extra years might be slapped on him anyway, because the Soviet would never trust him again and they wouldn’t want him returning to those “bad habits”. When, or if, he was released, he knew he could be sent to an even worse place, so he actually talks himself into not wanting to leave the camp. Going home was something he felt would probably never happen, so it would be better to stay where he was – in a situation he had learned to cope with and live in – than be sent to that worst place.

The story is not filled with suspense and twists and turns. This story holds a reader for another reason – it is character driven. The reader feels for this man (and his companions) and wants to get through the day with them.

The one thing that was very clear to me was how it shows humans adapt to their surroundings and learn how to survive even the most inhuman situations. When a person can find good fortune in receiving a few grams of stale bread and a ladle of something that resembles dish washing water each day, it should make the people of today appreciate what they have.

The book is just one long chapter, with not even a single scene break. At first, I found this irritating, but I got used to it. The writing is a little confusing. One moment the viewpoint was third person and then suddenly it turned to first person. The main character had two names and for a long time I wondered where Ivan Denisovich fit into the story as I didn’t realise I was reading about him because of this other name being used. (I’m not sure if I missed the connection at the beginning of the story or not. I did skim through those early pages again, but found nothing that made it clear. Maybe the confusion came about in the translation.)

Even with the confusion, I found this story interesting, which shows content is important. It made me wonder how well I would cope in a similar situation! I suspect not terribly well.

Anyway, this is a book I would not have picked up without recommendation, which proves – once again – a book cannot be judged by its cover.

Recommended.

Promise Me Tomorrow

Promise Me Tomorrow (Rocky Mountain Memories, #4)I actually finished reading Promise Me Tomorrow by Lori Wick almost three weeks ago. Life has been busy, which has stopped me from posting.

Promise Me Tomorrow is a romance story written by a Christian writer. The religious parts of the story were not too bad, generally speaking. The characters and actual story held me through most of those scenes. There was only one scene that was too much for me, which I skipped altogether. Apart from that it’s a romantic story about a man and woman and the obstacles they must overcome to be together. It’s sweet, sloppy and totally predictable, but I loved it.

I feel shy in admitting this, but it’s a story that could easily have been written by me (except for the religious content), because it’s exactly what I used to write when I first started writing. I adore reading and writing about the attraction between two people. You know what I mean…the sly glances, the adoration in the eyes, the fluster, the touch and the wanting to see the person again. And when I first started to write, I would build entire stories around these tender moments.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I read a book that I couldn’t put down. I honestly think this book spoke to me because I have denied (openly and privately) my desire to write the type of story I really enjoy to read and write. OK, I know that a lot of people would read this book, or any number of other books similar to it, and think it is complete dribble, but I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of doing what other people expect of me. Maybe I’ll enjoy writing again, if I do what I want to do. This is totally my own fault, by the way. I’ve allowed general consensus to rule me. But no more!

Promise Me Tomorrow is recommended to those with a tender heart.

Dying to Help

Dying to HelpLast night I finished reading Dying to Help by Penny Kline. This is a detective type story, without the detective. Someone dies and the main character finds herself trying to put the facts together and come up with the truth. The title of the book suggests that the main character finds herself targeted because of it. This is true, but there was no real fear, no urgency and, unfortunately, no real action.

The details of the murder were put together quite nicely and the writing itself is good, but reading the story was dull. After 200 pages I could have easily put the book down, but I forced myself to keep reading. Having read fantasy for so long, I wanted to ensure I had given this other genre a genuine chance.

Upon reaching the final page, I felt happy that it was finally over. The actual “action” scene lasted all of a single page and I felt disappointed by that.

I have nothing else to say about this book, except…I can’t recommend it!

Next on my reading list is a romance novel.

The Last Family in England

The Last Family in EnglandIf you have ever own a dog…or a cat…then The Last Family in England by Matt Haig might be of interest to you. The story is told from the dog’s point of view and the view point is so convincing, I found myself looking at my pets and wondering if they were thinking the things Prince, from the book, was thinking. And, I almost convinced myself that they were!

The book covers a wide range of topics; some of which are quite embarrassing so I won’t even attempt to go into those here. But the safer ones include adultery, suicide, growing up and disjointed family life. At first, I found the book hard to get into, but that was nothing to do with the writing or the subject matter. It was because this is the first book I’ve attempted to read in months. Before long, I found myself gasping with shock at the embarrassing parts, empathising with the characters in other parts of the story and snickering at Prince’s thought patterns. Not to mention getting choked up and crying. Any book that brings out that emotion must get brownie points, in my opinion.

I picked up this book completely on a friend’s recommendation and I had no idea what the story was about and I didn’t read the blurb on the back cover. In other words, I had no expectations and I found the story to be completely different to anything I’ve read in the last decade or more. Even with the rude bits…and the swearing, it was refreshing and interesting. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that’s unusual for me. I’m usually quite straight laced. Anyway, the characters are human (except for the dogs in the story, of course), the problems are real and the emotions strong. I recommend this book if you’re looking for something different.

I finished the book in less than a week. I can’t believe it. It looks like I’ll get at least two of those library books read at this rate. 😀

A Change in Taste…Perhaps!

Along with my desire not to write, I find I don’t feel like reading either. However, I refuse to stop reading. It’s something I’ve done since day dot.

I have many book shelves at home. Most of them are crammed full (two rows deep and high) with fantasy books. I’ve loved these stories for so long. But every time I look at the books now, I cringe. I think I might be sick to the core of fantasy.

It’s time to change my reading habits, I believe.

Last night, I made a special trip to the library. There was one rule I had to follow. No fantasy books! I’m drawn to them because of the excellent covers, but this time I made sure I picked up anything and everything else. I deliberately picked books at random that I wouldn’t normally entertain. I figure that the cover doesn’t maketh the book and maybe, hopefully, I’m missing out on a really good story. I plan to find out.

I chose chic fic, detective, Australiana, humour and romance. With only three weeks before the due date forces me to return the books, I doubt I’ll read more than one of them, but I wanted to be sure I had options in case I didn’t like whatever I decide to read first…or second…or third! You get my drift.

First book of the rank will be Last Family in England by Matt Haig. This book was highly recommended to me by Alan Baxter. I will let you know what I think.

If you have a non-fantasy book you’d like to recommend, please go ahead and tell me about it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are no spoilers in this post.

Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsMy eyes are so heavy. My mind is vague. I’m plodding along on the morning after, trying to work as normal and act somewhat human, but it’s difficult. I mustn’t complain though, because my condition is self inflicted. It was my choice to stay up and finish reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I had a choice: Put the book down right at the start of the climax and spend the night and all today wondering what was going to happen. Or, keep reading. I knew I had about an hour and a half of reading to go. I knew it would be well past midnight when I reached the last page and that is a very late night for me. I knew that I’d suffer today if I continued on with the adventure.

I put the book down. I got ready for bed. I said goodnight to my family and then…

I climbed into bed, picked up the book and continued to read. I had to know what was going to happen. I couldn’t wait another 24 hours. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep because of it, so I felt I may as well keep going. It’s what any normal person would have done…isn’t it? 😀

It was worth it.

Whilst young readers of Harry Potter were growing up as they read the books, J K Rowling was growing as a writer. She has done extremely well and, as a writer myself, I learned a lot from reading her series.

I especially admire Joanne’s ability to weave intricate threads together, giving hints throughout the entire series, and then pull everything together and leave the reader feeling satisfied. She did a marvellous job and she should feel proud of herself.

There is a lot of talk on the internet questioning Joanne’s ability and whether or not she’ll be able to produce something other than anything Harry Potter related. I truly hope that she can. I believe she has the ability to tell a good story. I just hope the public will give her a chance and not compare everything else she produces with Harry Potter. I realise it will be hard, but readers must open Joanne’s future books, especially the next one, with fresh eyes and an open mind.

Now that I’ve finished the Harry Potter series, I find myself looking at my own children’s series and feeling as if I must put more into it – more imagination, more excitement…and more of my time. I think that’s called inspiration.

Right, now I have to find someone to “chat” to, because I want to discuss the details of the book…