Enchantment by Orson Scott Card- a 4/5 Star Review!

Ivan’s childhood was full of changes. His family had to change religions which brought Ivan and his father Piotr to the painful decision of post-infancy circumcision. Then they had to move from Russia to America. Through all of these changes, what brought Ivan peace and stability was running. One run through the forest on his uncle’s farm brought him to a magical chasm where the leaves danced away as Ivan approached for a closer look at a woman sleeping on a bed of rock. Ivan did what he did best: he ran.

Years later, Ivan never could shake off the feeling that he should have looked closer at the woman and tried to help her. Through a series of seemingly coincidental events, Ivan finds himself back at his uncle’s farm. One curious run into the forest and Ivan finds the same woman buried under the leaves. This time, he doesn’t run.

This was a selection for a book club that I have recently joined, otherwise I might not have picked it up. This is the first book that I have read by Orson Scott Card as fantasy books are not really my preferred genre. However, fairy tales are one of my favorites, and this came across as a clever retelling of Sleeping Beauty mixed with the folk tales of Baba Yaga and other deities. Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment, although fantasy, surprised me in this combination of the three. I was further surprised that there were a few points where I lost interest yet it was quickly regained. This is not the sort of book that I could read in one sitting, as it was rather long and at some points long-winded. However, it is the sort of book that I could quickly pick up again the next day or even a few hours later. That is to say that I found it neither repulsive nor gripping.

I enjoyed the storyline for the most part and I also enjoyed the alternating perspectives between Ivan, Katerina, and Baba Yaga. I thought Baba Yaga was the character written the strongest as she was despicable yet entertaining. I also enjoyed the minor details earlier in the book that became major details later. For example: a vague note from a deceased neighbor in the beginning of the book played a major factor in one of the final action sequences. Although I love fairy tales, I do enjoy the struggle that Katerina and Ivan had in their relationship. They did not love each other immediately, rather they fell for each other at different paces.

I would recommend this book for any reader looking for an enchanting fantasy read with a leading female character and a bit of historical fiction.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who do not enjoy foul language, violence, revenge, murder, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Hunted: ALIAS #2 by Lisa Hughey- a 3 Star Review

Maria Torres has had a large part of her life taken away from her.  She was kidnapped and held captive for many years until she finally had the courage and opportunity to escape.  That experience has been haunting her life, making it very difficult to establish relationships and even trust others.

Dwayne Lameko has had a crush on co-worker Maria Torres since she joined the company.  He can charm most women, except for her.  She shuts down when he is near and refuses to tell him anything about herself.  She shocks him when she volunteers to go in on a mission and is even more shocked when he is assigned to be her partner.  Can they get over their awkward boundaries and work together as a team?

I read the first book in the series, Stalked: ALIAS #1 (see review here: Stalked ARC (ALIAS #1) by Lisa Hughey-5/5 Star Review), and I enjoyed the fast pace and high-powered action scenes.  The plot in that book was well developed, as were the characters, and there was a great balance between action and passion.  That being said, this book was a bit of a let down.  I went into Hunted expecting the same level of pace and character development but the story line felt truncated.  It focused more on the awkward romance growing between evasive Maria and alpha Dwayne than the thrill of the mission.  Furthermore, the “plot twist” was predictable.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to violence, sexually explicit scenarios, kidnapping, rape threats, and foul language.

Please note:  an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan-5/5 Star Review!

Judith Carrington has finally found herself and, in her middle age, she is content. The first couple of decades of her life were filled with torment and the peace she has found would have been inconceivable in her youth. As she is going through the airport on her way home from a work trip, the front page of a newspaper throws her back into the chaos of her younger years.

Casey has had it rough since the one fateful night in his early 20s. Ever since then, he has lost touch with his friends, lost his confidence, lost his hope. He is successful in business but it can never fill the void that was left in him since that night. Just when he thought it could not get worse, he finds himself as the main suspect in a murder investigation from that night.

The night when, young and dumb, he and his friends decide to visit an abandoned penitentiary. Not all of them come out alive. None of them can ever forget. Decades later, the past comes back for a visit in more ways than one.

The first few chapters were difficult to get through because there is so much information that is not coming together to make a clear picture yet. There are about 8 characters introduced in the first couple of pages and the plot jumps not only between past and present, but between narratives as well. It was almost enough to make me put down the book and mark it as a “DNF”. However, once this has been navigated, it reads far more smoothly.

Another reason why the first few chapters were difficult to get through, for me anyway, is because it started off in what seemed like a different genre at the time. It is a mystery/thriller but the mysterious villain initially seemed to be hinted towards supernatural in nature. I had feared it would become a sci-fi horror and it was starting to give me nightmares. It took me several days to read this book because I put it down often to try to understand the difference between characters or I was terrified.

Fortunately, by soldiering on through the chapters, the confusion cleared and it became far more exciting and deep. It is not just a book about murder. This is a book about how even the strongest of friendships can fray. How the future is never what we expect it to be, nor are people always what they seem. It is also a book that shows several examples of how one person’s choice can affect many people’s lives. Even if it is to make that person’s life better.

As I got further into this maze of a plot, I became entranced with the secrets of the characters. The turns are sharp but the design is masterful. I felt connected to each character. I felt fear, sorrow, happiness, and hope. Small details from the beginning of the book come back to play a bigger part later. I have already recommended this book to others and will continue to do so for it is just that incredible.

My favorite character in this book was a tie between Benny and Casey. Innocent little Benny whose childish mischief carries with him in age. Casey who has an excitable optimism, despite his weak self-image, and a pure sense of love.

I would recommend this book for readers who can fight through the initial confusion to get to the main road. I also would recommend this book for readers who enjoy deeply complex characters and do not mind the frequent jumping from past to present. Lastly, I would recommend this book for those who like fast-paced and mostly dark plots.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to the following: foul language, drug use, violence, sexually suggestive scenarios, and abortion.

Please note: a paperback copy of this book was generously provided by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.