Saturday, April 4, 2015

Harcourt's Mountain by Elaine Dodge

Harcourt’s Mountain.  Elaine Dodge. Tirgearr Publishing. November 2013. 345 pp.  E-Book. ASIN#: B00EK0V2Y4.

Hope Booker has no memories of how she wound up knocked out and thrown into the lower level hold of a so-called “Bride” ship.  Not long after waking up with a huge bump on her head, she finds herself about to be auctioned off.  It’s really more like a slave auction than “bride” auction and it’s clear from those bidding for the women that they need a worker who clearly won’t live much longer after they are bought, abused, prostituted or enslaved.  The reader can feel Hope’s astonishment and fear as the bidding begins for her life’s services.

Luke Harcourt is a most unusual man and one wonders why he’s watching the bride auction as it seems he despises the business.  He’s a very tender yet strong guy whose sensitivity and compassion, as well as his quick perception about Hope being unable to survive the typical treatment accorded those who come off the bride ship are most unusual for a man in this 1867 British Columbian world. Anyone who lives here has to be very, very tough to survive. However, the trials and tribulations Hope and Luke are about to undergo leave the reader stunned!

Luke has promised he won’t touch Hope and obviously this is the story of how they fall in love. Hope is cautious initially and has to learn to trust Luke before that will turn to deep caring and love for him. Physical dangers are not the only threat to Hope’s survival; the animal and natural threats to these settler’s lives are present on every page which certainly captures the attention and total immersion into the story as one never stops wanting to flip the pages to find out what happens next!

Luke himself will be kidnapped onto a ship where his life will be in danger and it doesn’t seem like he will be able to escape from the evil, sadistic man who is planning Luke’s demise. To say more about the future of Hope and Luke would be a spoiler for sure!

Elaine Dodge has crafted a romance and a historical thriller novel that is ripe for those who thrive on adventures and evolving romance!!! Very nicely done, Ms. Dodge!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Seventh Day of Light: A Novel - Part 1 - Shadows by Riccardo Bertora

The Seventh Day of Light – Part 1 - Shadows. Riccardo Bertora. Create Space Independent Publishing Forum. February 2015. 214 pp.  ISBN#: 9781507580943.

It’s 1958 and the race for the first manned space flight is in full gear.  Russia has already sent a dog into space in the Sputnik program.  The fact that that dog later died isn’t considered a blockade for future missions to outer space.  So it is that a choice for the first man to fly to space is made.  He is 24 years old, a child prodigy who has propelled into a role of leadership due to his remarkable intelligence, flight knowledge, military skills, and physical toughness.  The man chosen for this formidable, dangerous task is Sergei Federev and what he is about to undergo will leave the reader with mouth agape and more questions than answers!

Riccardo Bertora’s first novel in this planned series is the story of the explosion that would have killed any other human being instantly.  However, Sergei not only survives but finds himself completely healed and awake on a planet whose inhabitants are scientifically advanced and free of the strife that exists on Earth.  The story is replete with explanations of how disease and war have been obliterated.  Scientific explanations are vaguely offered, the only incredible aspect of this riveting novel, and Sergei goes so far as attempting to form a relationship of a woman.  Sergei eventually decides to return to Earth, no mean feat since this planet is in a different solar system and galaxy far, far from the Milky Way we know.

As much attention is given to the Cold War and Russia’s secretive, absolute decisions as the science fiction end of the novel.   At first on his return Sergei is not believed but then the plot goes sinister as he disappears and is being hunted by the government.  Will or won’t he survive his new fugitive status?  Will he live or die?

Except for the very vague scientific explanations about eradicating war and how the inhabitants of this strange planet give birth, The Seventh Day of Light is a fascinating read about a topic that intrigues most human beings.  Bertora has done a good job with imagining what life might be like on other planets far from our limited understanding.  Nicely done science fiction/fantasy!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffrey

Meadowlands.  Elizabeth Jeffrey. Severn House Publishers. April 2015. 224 pp.  ISBN#: 9780727884695.

Here’s another story about the ups and downs of WWI centered in the Barsham family.  They are aristocrats who cannot remain immune from the hardships and horrors to come, although Lady Adelaide does nothing but complain about how inconvenienced she is by losing staff and not having someone to fawn on her every wish.  Sir George Barsham is a Minister of Parliament who uses any excuse to be away from home.  The Barsham children all agree to “do their part” with James off to fight in the military, Millie to drive an ambulance to transport the wounded and dying, and Gina who starts a soup kitchen for the wives and children of soldiers who are off in Flanders fighting for King and country.

So what makes this novel different from the hundreds of other stories that have memorialized the causes and effects of this devastating war?  The first lies in the fact that England did everything possible to woo every male into fighting in Flanders but failed to take care of their spouses and children.  No salary or even part of a salary was sent to spouses and the families of wounded men received no recompense for their part in serving in the war.  The result was devastating poverty and Gina becomes not only soup kitchen director but also advocate for the needs of these present or former military families.

The second concerns the quiet but awful custom of committing pregnant young ladies into houses of insanity, followed by having to give up their babies and forever live in the deplorable conditions of their home.  Cruelty and ill treatment are described with disarming clarity.

The upshot is that this so-called “war to end all wars” had devastating physical, mental and emotional results that bear telling and remembering.  Elizabeth Jeffrey does so with sensitivity, accuracy and passion! There is so much more than what is described above which makes delightful reading! Well done historical fiction, indeed!

The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick

The Second Sister.  Marie Bostwick. Kensington Press.  March 2015. 353 pp. pb. ISBN # 9780758269300. 

Lucy Toomey has been living the fast-paced, whirling life of a Washington insider as the campaign assistant of a Presidential candidate.  Working umpteen hours a day, her diet and her clothing style have suffered dramatically.  She has no life outside of this job. The only reminder that she once had such a life is in the middle of the night telephone calls from her sister, Alice.  Alice keeps Lucy up to date on the occurrences in her home town of Nilson’s Bay in Wisconsin but every topic is interrupted with Alice’s plea that Lucy return home for Christmas.  Lucy has few good memories of her time in that town but promises finally to come home for Christmas to her mentally challenged sister.  That promise happens but not in the way Lucy expects. For a day before the election, Lucy receives a call that her sister has been found dead from an overdose of drugs.

It’s Lucy’s boss, soon to be President-elect, who insists that Lucy return to Wisconsin for the funeral and for at least a month after that.  Lucy had insisted the same for him after a family loss and now he demands she do the same, not only to mourn but to think about what is really important in life before she returns to work for him after he is sworn in as President of the United States.  Return Lucy does and at first has trouble dealing with her mourning and all the friends of Alice who treat her like the person who abandoned her sister. 

The day of the funeral Lucy discovers her sister had earlier planned and written a very carefully plotted will that means Lucy must remain in Wisconsin for a time or lose the inheritance of the cottage where Alice lived, a place left to her by their parents.  This then is the story of how Lucy begins to remember the better times in her past and focuses on the things that truly give lasting pleasure and meaning to life. 

It’s a lovely engaging story that never lags with fascinating people and places in this small Wisconsin town.  Romance may lie ahead for persons and other activities that Lucy never believed she could come to hold dear, but she gets the chance to see things a different way.  That makes all the difference in the world, in Lucy’s world, a world she comes to share and see as Alice did!
Very nicely crafted, Ms. Bostwick!