Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Neverland Book Review

Neverland by Douglas Clegg

Click here for the Amazon product page.
Click here for the Barnes and Noble product page.


For years, the Jackson family has vacationed at Rowena Wandigaux Lee's old Victorian house on Gull Island, a place of superstition and legend off the Southern coast of the U.S. One particular summer, young Beau follows his cousin Sumter into a hidden shack in the woods - and christens this new clubhouse "Neverland".

Neverland has a secret history, unknown to the children...

The run-down shack in the woods is the key to an age-old mystery, a place forbidden to all. But Sumter and his cousins gather in its dusty shadows to escape the tensions at their grandmother's house. Neverland becomes the place where children begin to worship a creature of shadows, which Sumter calls "Lucy".

All gods demand sacrifice...

It begins with small sacrifices, little games, strange imaginings. While Sumter's games spiral out of control, twisting from the mysterious to the macabre, a nightmarish presence rises among the straggly trees beyond the bluffs overlooking the sea.

And when Neverland itself is threatened with destruction, the children's games take on a horrifying reality - and Gull Island becomes a place of unrelenting terror.

Review by Brittany:

When I bought this book, I didn't realize it was going to be a horror book that deals with near possession. As the story continued, I often was surprised by some of the events that were taking place, due in part to the story being something different than I had expected.

The book has some very intense imagery. The children in the book do some animal sacrifices and see some horrifying images that aren't real, such as imagining another child being murdered when it is actually a china doll being broken. The author describes some of these in great detail, and even though I'm a fan of horror films, reading some of these was a little much for me. It was also often confusing trying to separate reality from what is imagined by the narrator.

The story itself is mostly about one of the family members who died many years before. Her death was under suspicious circumstances and the story eventually reveals that she suffered from the things as Sumter: they both hear voices and have strange behaviors. The sacrifices that the children are making and the weird actions they are doing are all tied back to Lucy, the family member who died years before.

I was actually not very impressed with the novel overall. I think the imagery was appropriately gruesome, but the story itself wasn't intriguing enough to keep me hooked. The shifts between reality and imaginings were confusing and often left me wondering what exactly was going on. There were also no likable characters, not any of the children or the adults. Overall, nothing about this book really stood out.

Notable quotes:

"Those we lose are never really gone, are they? They are there, at least insofar as we remember them, and they have not really left us at all."

"No such thing as imagine. If you think something happened, it did."

The way panic works is you have about a minute or two of it, when you can't do anything right, and then you experience a calm because it begins to sink in that you really can't do anything right, so you just go ahead and do what needs to get done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

These Things Hidden Book Review

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

Click here for the Amazon product page.
Click here for the Barnes and Noble product page.
Click here for the Books-a-Million product page.


When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. But it's her shy, quiet sister, Brynn, who carries the burden of what really happened that night. She's the only person who can't forget the past that haunts her - especially when Allison is released to a halfway house, more determined than ever to see Brynn again.

Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

Review by Brittany:

I have read one book by this author previously, and after having read this one, I feel like this is an author who is willing to write about hard topics. This book does have some themes that may be difficult for some readers, although I think that it is very well done in this book.

As a warning, the crime that is discussed in this book is the death of a newborn. Allison is accused and found guilty of drowning her newborn baby, and the book takes place when she is released from prison five years after the crime. As the story continues, the pieces of the night are revealed a little at a time, so that the reader only understands what actually happened at the end of the book.

The story changes point of view by person, and there are four characters: Allison, Brynn, Charm, and Claire. Allison and Brynn are the two sisters who hold the secrets of what happened that night. Charm and Claire are somehow caught in the story, but how is not revealed until a little further in. The changing point of view was confusing at the beginning of the story, but as it continued, there was value in each person's point of view.

The ending of the book had a bit of a twist that I appreciated. The events of the night in question are not as the reader is led to believe the entire time, so the ending comes as a bit of a shock. The story is made even more tragic once the full truth is revealed.

I recommend this book for those who can separate themselves from the main topic. It is a hard thing to read about, but the story is such a good one. Character development is well done and there's a certain level of suspense that is maintained throughout the story that kept me turning pages. I do plan to read other books by this author.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Woody Guthrie, Gunsmoke and Me Book Review

Woody Guthrie, Gunsmoke and Me by Shirley Bracken

Click here for the Amazon product page.


Welcome to my hometown, Okemah, Oklahoma. It's also the hometown of folksinger Woody Guthrie. Woody and I were born in two different generations and it feels like two different towns. Okemah was an oil boomtown for a short time while Woody was growing up, but good things never last. The oil stopped flowing. The dust kept blowing, and Okemah was overran with hustlers and gamblers. In Woody's own words, Okemah was "busted, disgusted and not to be trusted". The Okemah I grew up in was none of these things. Most of the town watched shows like Gunsmoke and admired Marshal Matt Dillon. Children rode their bikes all day with no fear. No one ever locked their doors.

A few things Woody and I did agree on: we both hated tornadoes, the dust and the talk about the the lynching that happened on the North Canadian bridge.

Come with me as I write stories and poems about growing up in Oklahoma. Take a walk through some of Oklahoma's territory.

Review by Brittany:

This book is a collection of short stories and poems that all deal with Okemah, Oklahoma.

My favorite thing about this book is Shirley's voice. Some writers have a really distinctive voice, while others have a more general tone. Shirley is one who has such a strong voice that the reader is pulled in from the very first page. She also knows how to pace the book, interspersing stories and poems that have related themes but keep the book moving along at an appropriate pace.

While Shirley's poems are strong, it is her short stories that really strike a nerve with me. Stories about tornadoes in Oklahoma and experiences that are in no way related to me gave me chills while reading them. She has a way of telling a story that makes it feel personal, even when it isn't. Her own childhood stories and stories about her own son give the book a lighthearted feel, even when other stories are heavy and deal with strong themes.

This book is priced well and is worth the read. It's not often that a local author has such great skill for storytelling that even one who is not from the area finds the book to be so great. I definitely recommend this book!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Distant Hours Book Review

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Click here for the Amazon product page.
Click here for the Barnes and Noble product page.
Click here for the Books-a-Million product page.


Edie is an only child of respectable if dull parents who, when she was growing up, did little to nurture her natural love of words or mystery.

But now, a letter that should have been delivered fifty years earlier arrives for her mother and sends Edie on a journey into the past. It takes her to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house in Kent, where the Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted as a thirteen-year-old child during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn't been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother's past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst. The truth of what happened in "the distant hours" of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning an intricate web of mystery and suspense that will stay with the reader long after the last page.

Review by Brittany:

First of all, what a lovely, well-written book. This is my first by Kate Morton (although I own all of her other books), and I think I made a good first choice. She tells the story always in third person, but she does switch her focus between the characters, which adds a level of depth to the story that does wonders for it.

The present is 1992, when Edie's mother Meredith receives the letter and Edie begins researching and poking into the past. The story bounces between the present, when Edie is learning more about what happened, and the past, the events as they are happening. The way the author went about sharing both the past and the present was interesting, and I enjoyed reading the events the way they happened, but also hearing in the present how things were told. This also added a level of suspense to the story because the narrators of the present are not as reliable as the facts of the past. The time period is one that interests me as I enjoy reading stories about World War II. Although there isn't a lot about the war in this book, there are key elements to this story that would have been different with a different time period.

The blurb does not mention this, but a huge factor in Edie's curiosity about Milderhurst and the Blythe sisters is a childhood book that was written by their father, Raymond Blythe. Edie fell in love with his book The True History of the Mud Man, and that love for the book pushes her to continue in her pursuit of learning more about the past, including the inspiration for the book.

There are so many secrets in this book, some small but some astronomical, and the author reveals everything by the end of the novel. The reader learns about the night Juniper was jilted and why that affected her so tragically, about Meredith's own past, about the origins of the book. We get a piece of it all, to the point where the story is well wrapped up in the end.

That being said, this is not a happy story. The secrets of the past hold tragedies that have altered the lives of the Blythe sisters, and not for the better. This is not a book that leaves you smiling at the end; however, it is a lovely book that tells a fantastic story. I often enjoy the stories that make me sad more than the stories that make me happy, and this one was a very good book. I am looking forward to reading Morton's other books.

Notable quotes:

The stretch of years leaves none unmarked: the blissful sense of youthful invincibility peels away and responsibility brings its weight to bear.

I had a feeling that for someone like my aunt who'd had the good fortune to find herself exactly where she fitted, no explanation would make sense.

There were simpler romantic choices she could have made, suitable men with whom she might have fallen in love, with whom she could have conducted a courtship openly and without risk of exposing her family to derision, but love was not wise, not in Percy's experience: it was unmindful of social structures, cared not for lines of class or propriety or plain good sense. And no matter that she prided herself on her pragmatism; Percy had been no more able to resist its call when it came than to stop herself from drawing breath.

She didn't say as much, though; the force of Juniper's conviction was such that Meredith knew the fault was her own, that her tastes were too juvenile, that she just wasn't trying hard enough.

There are certain people who exude vulnerability, whose pain and discomfort are particularly difficult to witness, and for whom you would endure almost any inconvenience if it promised to ease their suffering.

Nighttime is different. Things are otherwise when the world is black. Insecurities and hurt, anxieties and fears grow teeth at night.