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Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes

31 May

 

What happens when you can’t let go of your grief? What happens when it consumes you? When it becomes all that you have left? What do you do? Where do you go? What do you become?

Nina has left her husband Matt and her daughter Molly. She is going back to Malta with her son Christopher to visit her parents one last time. But she is also going home to Malta to confront the ghosts of her past.

Ostracized and cut out of the family when she became pregnant out of wedlock, Nina seeks to mend her relationship with her parents; and if she is lucky, she will be able to mend her heart.

But Nina carries with her more than just hope and grief over her past. Nina carries with her a secret that, should she choose to acknowledge it, will shatter her world even further.

When she arrives in Malta, there is more than just her past waiting for Nina. There are also the dead.

Malta has always been a stomping ground for spirits; and Nina has always been able to see them. A seer from a young age, she has always seen the dead that come to Malta to heal. But now the dead come to her so that Nina can begin her healing.

Can Nina let go of her past to embrace the future? Or will her grief swallow her completely? With help from the most unlikely of beings, Nina might have a chance at redemption…

There is so much I want to say about this novel, but I don’t have the right words to do the novel justice. Not only the novel a beautiful story about love and loss, grief and circumstance, it is also a haunting reminder to live life to the fullest every single day we can.

Smailes, who is no stranger to delving into the darker side of the human psyche, has given us a multi-faced heroine in Nina. Here is someone we can ache for, someone we grow to care about and grow to know over the course of a novel.

You would think that someone obsessed with her grief would grate on your nerves, but that is not the case here. Smailes juggles Nina’s emotions with a deft and subtle grace that leaves the reader not only empathizing with her but sympathising with her as well.

Everyone has done something they regret. Everyone has lost someone they love. Smailes manages to tap into that vein and give us a novel that is filled with real, true emotion captured on the page. Like Bees To Honey is so good that it took my breath away.

I was surprised by how funny the novel was. You would think a novel about the darkness of grief would be hard going, but that’s not so. The novel is full of emotion, yes, but it is such an incredibly human novel. It reminds us of what matters, of the simple things that bring joy. Like Bees To Honey is beauty captured on the page in words.

Like Bees To Honey is also a novel about language. Much like Smailes earlier novels, language plays a big part in Nina’s unfolding story. Nina feels that she has lost her language, that she has lost her home. She tries to find it again in speaking her mother tongue. Maltese is sprinkled through out the novel with handy translations for those who don’t speak it.

The language is almost like the music of the novel. Each time I found a Maltese word, I found myself repeating it, wondering at is shape and it’s sound. Smailes, who is conscious of every word on her page, has placed these words notes, this word music, through out the novel, giving it perfect pace and perfect pitch.

I think the thing that is so delightful about Like Bees To Honey is that everything about it is so completely unexpected. Nothing is as you think it is and the story will not go at all how you think it will. Surprises wait for you, and for Nina, around the turn of every page. I was surprised by Like Bees To Honey constantly and each surprise was a lovely shock to my system.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a novel. Like Bees To Honey not only touched my heart and my emotions; it touched my spirit.

And it refuses to let go.

Beautiful, funny, moving and haunting, Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes is no mere novel. It is a gorgeous, life changing experience, just waiting to enthral you with its beauty.

Let Like Bees To Honey cast its spell over you. It will haunt you well after the last page is turned.

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

24 May

“This is a Story…”

 

We’ve already heard The Greatest Story Ever Told right?

We’ve seen it in movies, in books about Jesus Christ, in novels that retell his story again and again. Anne Rice’s recent books Christ the Lord Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord The Road To Cana come to mind.

The Greatest Story Every Told, that of Jesus and his birth and the miracles he performed has been told and retold so many times that there’s no possible way to give it a new spin for a modern age. Or is there?

Philip Pullman is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy and supplemental books, featuring Lyra Belacqua (or Lyra Silvertongue). The books received a lot of notice when they were first published as they are very anti-religion, very anti-God. This should come as no surprise to fans of Pullmans. Pullman himself as admitted that he is an atheist.

When I first heard that The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ was being written by Pullman, I wondered why an atheist had chosen to retell The Greatest Story Ever Told. I wondered if Pullman would colour the narrative with his own negative views on Christianity.

Thankfully, he keeps his views to himself. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is an incredible new retelling of the life of Jesus…and his brother.

Pullman sets up the story in the very beginning. Mary gives birth to two baby boys, twins. One, she names Jesus, one she names Christ. Christ seems to be a bit sickly and thin whereas Jesus seems strong and thriving.

When the three Wiseman come, following the star, they see two babes in the manger. When they ask Mary which one is the messiah, which one will be their saviour, she points to Christ. He’s a little sickly and can use the attention, she thinks.

This sets in motion events that no one could have foretold, not even the angels. As Jesus becomes more and more well known, and his miracles become more and more exaggerated, Christ begins to receive visits from a stranger who seems very interested in him.

Who is the mysterious stranger? Will Christ ever be out of Jesus’ shadow? And when Christ begins to write down Jesus’ doings and exaggerating them beyond all truth, the consequences for Jesus and for Christ will be dire indeed…

I’ll admit, this book surprised me. I didn’t expect a book about the life of Jesus written by a well known and vocal atheist to be any good. But it wasn’t just good; it was fantastic. Not only did Pullman give us a new retelling of the life of Jesus that seemed entirely plausible, he kept the story historically accurate.

Pullman has obviously done his research and has written a story that is at once historical novel and modern parable. Though a lot of people will and have react badly to the idea that Jesus Christ was actually two children, Jesus and Christ, it makes the reader stop and think about the history of the story.

It makes us stop and remember.

That, in the end, is the true power of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. You remember it long after you’ve turned the last page. Though it is written in very simple language, though it is written in a style much like a fable, it makes you stop and remember.

I found myself remembering pieces of scripture as I read it, remembering the commandments I had been raised on. It also helps to make you remember what it was like when you were a child and the whole world was at your fingertips. All you had to do was reach out and grasp it.

Though this is the greatest story ever retold, you’ve never ever read it this way before. The ending is cataclysmic and the book will leave you breathless. Told in simple, lyrical prose, The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ is indeed The Greatest Story Every Re-Told.

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze

7 Jan

What do you do when what you have written gets you into more trouble than you could imagine?

Beth Rider is a writer who has finally hit the big time. Her new novel about vampires seeking redemption is selling like hot cakes and has become a best seller. Everyone is reading it, including some very unsavoury characters.

On a book tour to promote the novel, Beth is approached by a dark and menacing man who gives her a warning: Watch your back!

But the thing of it is, no one else saw the mysterious stranger. Beth tries to chalk it up to nerves, but something about the man frightens her and strikes a deep fear into her. Her worst fears come to life when the man attacks her in her hotel room.

That man is Jack Dawn, one of the Rakum, a race of darkness that has spread evil and then thrive on it. Jack knows that Beth Rider’s book is dangerous, that it provokes the wrong kinds of questions. Questions that could mean the end of his powerful race.

Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he marks Beth as a Rabbit. Forcing Beth to swallow some of his blood, she is now a marked woman. Unable to die, she can also be tracked by other Rakum who will find her and torture her.

But one Rakum stands for hope in the darkness.

Michael Stone smells Beth Rider before he sees her. He knows that scent; it belongs to one that is marked as a Rabbit, a plaything for his kind. He knows that Rabbits are usually those who are crooks or thieves, those that would deserve a slow and painful death.

However, when he realizes the scent of the Rabbit is coming from Beth, Michael knows something is wrong. More than that, he feels a connection to her that he has never felt with any other being, Rakum or human.  Smitten, and knowing that something is decidedly wrong, Michael decides to go against everything he has been taught as a Rakum and protect Beth from a world of darkness she knows nothing about.

As Beth and Michael try to hide from an entire race that means them harm, they are faced with a choice. But the wrong choice could cost them more than their lives; it could cost them their souls as well…

I had no idea what to expect when I began to read Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze. None whatsoever. However, I love books that take a myth that has been written to death, vampires, and turn it on its head to make it into something new. I love it when an author is courageous enough to go against the grain and give readers something new that grew from something old.

However, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the book falls flat or what begins as a great premise isn’t carried off very well. Thankfully, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze suffers from none of these problems. In fact, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is perhaps one of the best novels I have read. Ever.

Instead of relying on tired old cliché’s, Maze takes the old vampire myth and throws it out the window. Instead, she essentially creates an entire mythology and an entire race from the ground up. This is no easy feat for an author and many others have tried and failed. But Maze pulls it off with grace, skill and aplomb.

In fact, I find it difficult to believe that Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is Maze’s first published novel. The book is so good, so incredible, that it reads like the work of a seasoned pro.

Beth Rider is an immediately likeable character that I came to identify with and actually care for as the book hurtled towards its incredible and explosive climax. Michael Stone is wonderfully sympathetic and is the perfect white knight. Maze is able to write characters that simply leap off the page and you can’t help reading more to find out what happens to them.

Even better than that, Maze has given us a novel with a lightning paced plot that rivals the works of Dan Brown or Stephen King. Part love story, part mythology, part vampire tale and all heat, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is the very definition of page turner. The book hooked me from the very first page and I could not stop reading, could not put the book down, until I found out what happened.

This isn’t your average page turner either. Surprisingly, Maze fills the book with some pretty heavy food for thought. The story deals with issues like faith, redemption, salvation, right and wrong, ones moral compass, light and darkness but Maze covers the heavier subject matter with a deft hand. She doesn’t beat you over the head with anything except a great story that won’t let you go.

If you’re looking for a book that has thrills, chills, a great plot, mythology and incredible characters, look no further than Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze. Not only will the story hook you from page one, it will haunt you and stay with you well after you’ve turned the last page.

The Circle of Friends Book V: Heather by L. Diane Wolfe

3 Jan

 

Heather Jennings is lost within herself.

She should be happy, she should be thrilled. Having finished college, she’s been offered an assistant coach position at Clemson College, her dream job. Heather loves the thrill of the sport and the challenge of it.

But part of her knows that her heart isn’t really in it.

Part of her heart is held in check. Her father, Thomas, is dying of terminal cancer. Heather is constantly afraid that the next phone call she gets will be from her mother telling Heather that her father is dead. Though she doesn’t say it, the fear is eating away at her.

Another part of her heart is held by Matt Gardener. Friends since high school, Heather has carried a flame for him for years. A flame that went unanswered. Matt never felt the same way about her as Heather did for him. Instead, he fell in love with Heather’s college roommate, Sarah. Eventually they married and now they have children.

After that heartbreak, Heather chose to keep herself alone and isolated from the opposite sex. With too much to lose if she let herself love again, Heather prefers to keep herself alone. But that all changes when she sees Matt’s brother Mark again.

The two are instantly attracted to each other and soon they are in the midst of what Heather never wanted: a serious relationship where love is involved. Added to that, Mark wants nothing to do with marriage or children, two things that Heather has come to realize she wants more than anything.

Heather’s world is further complicated when her dream job becomes a nightmare. One of the team members of Clemson’s Lady Tigers reacts badly to Heather’s position of authority within the team. Challenging her at every turn, Brandi seems to have made it her life’s ambition to make Heather’s job a living nightmare.

With everything in her life so upside down, Heather’s confidence begins to fail. Soon, Heather is only a shell of her former self.

But when a life changing event shatters what confidence that remains, Heather will have to fight to regain control over her life and begin to believe in the healing power of love…

I have been both anticipating and dreading The Circle of Friends Book V: Heather by powerhouse author L. Diane Wolfe. I’ve been anticipating the book because it is the last book in her phenomenal series. And dreading much for the same reason.

Having been a long time fan of L. Diane Wolfe’s The Circle of Friends Series, I gobbled up each offering, each new book, knowing that the end was coming; knowing that the end would eventually have to happen. And the end is here.

I had wondered how Wolfe would end The Circle of Friends Series. Each book in the series has been better than the last one; she has given herself a heavy task of topping herself. How do you end a series that has everything you could wish for?

In The Circle of Friends Series you have love, hate, betrayal, friendship, devotion, abuse, relationships, family, buried secrets and earth shattering events. How do you end a five book series and top all that?

Thankfully, L. Diane Wolfe’s The Circle of Friends Book V: Heather is the ultimate ending to the series and she finishes off the series with her best and most emotionally charged novel yet.

Heather has always been one of my favourite characters in the series and I wondered how her story would play out. What I didn’t expect was to become so emotionally involved with her during the reading of the book. I ached for Heather, I yearned for her to find love. I needed her to find the healing she needed.

It takes a very gifted author to make her characters so incredibly real. It takes an even more gifted author to fill her pages with so much emotion, you can’t help but become emotionally involved. Wolfe has always succeeded in giving her readers character that we can care about. But in The Circle of Friends Book V: Heather, she has gone above and beyond that.

Wolfe has given us characters that we can love and know as well as our own friends and family. She has given us characters that feel like family, our family; we know them so well by the end of the novel and this helps to fuel the books emotional charge.

What I love so much about Wolf’s writing is that she gives us real people living through very real situations. Not only can we relate to them, but we feel for them because they are so real and because they are living through things that each and every one of us have gone through.

A lot of authors would not be able to handle such an emotional storyline, but in The Circle of Friends Book V: Heather, Wolfe handles the emotion and plot with grace and aplomb. Instead of having it read like a saccharine after school special, The Circle of Friends Book V: Heather is one of the most intense and real novels ever written.

Wolfe has given us what in the end is the ultimate study of human nature. She has let us into the lives of these incredibly real people and their plight. Even after reading the novel, I am haunted by these characters: Heather, her father Thomas, her mother Lauren, her sister Dawn. Matt and his brother Mark. These characters are real to me, living breathing people that I now feel like I’ve known for years. This is the power of Wolfe’s writing.

Though I have been silently dreading the ending of The Circle of Friends Series, I am thrilled that Wolfe has ended the series with Heather’s story. Not only is Heather’s story the one that most readers have been looking forward too, it carries the most important message.

Yes, Heather has a lot to deal with during the course of her story. But Wolfe shows us that with the power of love, we can overcome anything. With the healing power of love, even the most devastating blow to our self confidence can become a positive.

She shows us that, with the healing power of love, anything is possible.

The Circle of Friends Book I: Lori by L. Diane Wolfe

15 Mar

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What would you do if your life went in a direction you hadn’t planned? Would you charge on forward? Would you have the confidence to continue down an unknown path? Or would you crumble under your own self doubt?

Lori Anders lives the good life. She is the child of wonderful parents. She has incredible grades in school. She is popular and well liked by everyone. She is also an amazing swimmer who has dreams of swimming in the Olympics.

But, even with all sorts of good things going for her, Lori still feels empty. Though she puts on a good face to the world, always appearing happy and content, inside Lori is unsure of herself and extremely unhappy.

That all changes when she meets Jason Phillips.

When Lori is attacked after helping her friend deal with some bullies, Jason Phillips comes to her aid. He marvels at the fact that Lori is able to stand up to so much pressure, so much tension and still think positively.

Lori immediately tried to pull within herself, unsure as to why one of the most popular guys in school would even stop to help her. As Lori battles her self doubt and her lack of confidence, her relationship with Jason develops into something more than friendship.

Jason’s interest in her and their growing love help force Lori out of her shell and build up her confidence. But when something happens that tests her newfound confidence, will Lori give in to her old demons?

The Circle of Friends Book I: Lori is an absolute delight from start to finish. Never have I read such an emotionally charged wonderful book. Wolfe has succeeded in writing a book about people that matter, about people you can grow attached to. Real people.

What I found most interesting about The Circle of Friends Book I: Lori was its warmth. You can tell that the author has so much love for these characters that it is not possible to love them as well. It’s rare for me to become emotionally involved with a book but, while reading Lori, I was hoping and cheering right along with the characters.

It’s also rare for me to read a book with a message and not come away feeling as if I’ve had half a pound of sugar. Most books with a message usually hit the reader over the head from page one; but one of Wolfe’s strengths is that she doesn’t do that. She lets actions speak louder than words, lets the characters speak for themselves.

Wolfe manages to teach us some very wise advice while giving us an incredible story: never stop yourself from going after your dreams. Never give up on yourself. Never let lack of self-confidence stand in the way of achieving your dreams. It’s an incredible, inspiring message interwoven into one of the best novels I have ever read. Period.

If you want to read an incredibly well written novel that will change the way you see yourself, this is the book for you. Once you become a part of The Circle of Friends, you will never want to leave.

The Circle of Friends Book I: Lori is an amazing book that will leave you breathless for more.

The Circle of Friends Book II: Sarah by L. Diane Wolfe

15 Mar

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Everyone has self-doubt inside of them. We carry it around inside of us and, most of the time, we’re able to ignore it, to push it aside. But what would you do if you let self-doubt control your life instead of ignoring it? What if self-doubt began to take over your life?

Sarah Martin is heading for great things in life. She’s bold, smart, fun and a talented student in biochemistry at Georgia Tech. But Sarah is very good at hiding problems, at masking what she is really feeling.

Even though Sarah seems to have it all, she suffers from self-doubt, from a lack of self-confidence. It colours everything she does. Instead of confronting the doubts she has about herself, she tries to ignore them by acting out, by acting rashly.

Estranged from her father, envious of her best friend Lori’s perfect life, Sarah feels as if she will never meet the expectations of others. That all changes when she meets Matt.

Matt is friends with Sarah’s roommate, Heather. Sarah enjoys Matt’s visits, even if he doesn’t come to se her.

But then something begins to spark between them. Something that feels dangerously like love. This has Sarah wanting to run away, and fast.

Still suffering from self-doubt, and unable to love herself, Sarah can hardly believe that Matt loves her, that he finds her beautiful. What Sarah doesn’t know is that Matt has trouble trusting others and by loving her, by giving her his heart, he has made himself incredibly vulnerable.

They will both have to face their own demons so that their love will have a chance to bloom. Or they will lose everything they hold dear…

Words can’t describe how much I loved this novel. Out of all of L. Diane Wolfe’s Circle of Friends novels, The Circle of Friends Book II: Sarah is definitely my favourite.

There are several reasons for this. She has written a novel that has real people going through real ordeals. The warmth and love she has for her characters shines through on every page and the people within The Circle of Friends feel like your friends. It is as if you have known them for years.

Wolfe also deals with difficult and emotional issues. Where most authors would run screaming from writing emotional scenes that deal with difficult emotions and buried feelings, Wolfe manages not only to make the scenes emotionally charged and well written, she has also managed to show people as they really are without making it all seem like an after school special. Not an easy feat, I assure you.

But ultimately, it is my own personal reaction to the novel that has me loving it so much. I continually suffer from self-doubt. I continually battle that little voice inside the back of my head that tells me I’m too ugly, I’m too fat. I’m not smart enough, I’m not talented enough. I am continually fighting with that voice, who tells me there is no way anyone in their right mind could love me.

I connected with Sarah on so many levels mostly because it was as if she was living my life. I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and pull her close to me, wrap my arms around her to comfort her; and in turn, myself.

The message in this book is clear: Never let self doubt stop you from living your life. Don’t let self-doubt stop you from giving an accepting love. Do not let self-doubt stop you from really living your life. These are wise words from an incredible author.

Sarah: Circle of Friends Book II is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing and moving books I have ever read. Wolfe has written the impossible: a story of real people facing lifes real issues and she does this with style, grace and aplomb.

Anyone who has suffered from poor self-image and low self esteem needs to read this book. It will not only restore your faith in yourself but your faith in others.

MIKE by L. Diane Wolfe

8 Aug

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Have you ever wanted something so badly you could taste it? Have you ever wished you could travel back in time and erase past mistakes so that you could start fresh? Have you ever regretted something you have done?  

Mike Taylor is a troubled young man.  

Though you wouldn’t know this to look at him. Hard working and down to earth, he is well liked by everyone who knows him. Having achieved high marks at Georgia Tech and athletic success, you would think that Mike is a man on top of the world.  

But secrets, especially those that are deeply buried, will eat away at even the most convincing façade. And they usually have a way of getting out.

Years ago, Mike got one of his girlfriends pregnant. After she had an abortion, things were not the same for Mike. How could he live with himself after letting a human life be taken away?  

Worse still, he is in love with his best friend’s wife. Sarah has no idea of Mike’s feelings towards her and if she did, it would change everything between them. Loving and admiring her from afar, his heart and spirit suffers. He feels guilty for loving his friend’s wife, guilty for all the mistakes he has made.  

Needing a fresh start, Mike moves out to Albuquerque to start a job at the Sandia Labs. Hoping to escape his past, Mike finds himself instead isolated and alone. Away from his friends and family, Mike does nothing but obsess about the mistakes he made in his past and the ones he has made in his present.  

All that changes, however, when he meets Danielle. Her energy and her bright personality bring a spot of light into Mike’s dark life and the two bond quickly. Mike finds himself falling in love with Danielle and the two are married shortly after meeting. Mike feels that nothing can go wrong, that nothing can destroy the relationship they have built. 

But Mike has not counted on the power of secrets. Even if you keep them tightly hidden, they will find a way to break free.  Can Mike find a way to be honest with Danielle and himself? Or will he let past misjudgements ruin what could be the greatest love of his life?  

Simply put, MIKE is amazing. I have fallen in love with Wolfe’s Circle of Friends series since reading the third book and working my way back to the beginning.

Thus far, I’ve read MIKE three times and it’s better every time I read it. For those unfamiliar with the series, never fear! Each book is a stand alone novel but you will meet characters from the other books in the series.  

Wolfe manages to write a novel about difficult situations and still manages to make it light, funny and heart warming. While there is a lot of focus on Christianity and faith, it never comes off as preachy. Most books that involve even a hint of references to Christianity make my skin crawl but Wolfe manages to juggle many storylines, plots and characters all at once and always comes out shining.

Faith is an important part of MIKE but not the central focus. It takes an incredibly talented writer to tackle the subject of faith and religion and not make it sound preachy. 

Another reason that Wolfe is such an amazing writer is her ability to write such well defined, amazing characters. And in MIKE she has sharpened her pen and her inner eye to crystal cut clarity. You know just from reading the beautiful prose that Wolfe loves these characters, that she aches for them. Because she does, you do too. 

I wanted to tell Mike that it was all going to be okay, that he needed to take one day at a time. You KNOW Mike after this novel, you feel for him, you ache for him. Many writers try to accomplish this and even more fail. Happily, Wolfe manages this with flying colours.  

Wolfe’s novels also have a moral or important message to take away from them. This one is important for everyone and I want to make sure you’re reading carefully, that you pay attention to this next line. It’s such an important message and everyone needs to hear it. Are you ready? Here it is:  

Do not let past mistakes determine your future.  

Sounds simple, right? But that theme, that message, is woven through out every word in this glorious novel. It’s such an important message because everyone does this.

Everyone judges themselves so harshly for the things they have done that they never stop to forgive themselves. If you don’t forgive yourself for your mistakes, how can you move on? How can you live your life?

  MIKE is such a powerful, engrossing, incredible, beautiful novel. But it still manages to be light hearted, funny and heart felt. There is real emotion and real people in these pages and I enjoyed MIKE more than any other book in the series.

I know that when the fifth and final book comes out, it will be like saying goodbye.  Do yourself a favour and make some time for this book.

This is a life changing novel and you will look at yourself, and the world around you, once you have finished.