The Moonlit Garden

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The Moonlit Garden tells the stories of two women who live in different centuries and countries-yet they have a connection, a violin.

Lilly Kaiser is an antique shop owner from Germany who is dealing with the loss of her husband.  She is approached by a stranger who gives her an old violin he says belongs to her.  Lilly isn’t musical, and as far as she knows neither is anyone in her immediate family.  She is intrigued about the violin’s original owner and sets out to solve the mystery with the help of her friend Ellen Morris and the head of a music school, Gabriel Thornton.

They discover the violin belonged to Rose Gallway, a musician of mixed English-Sumatran heritage who lived in the early 1900s and was a well-regarded performer until she suddenly disappears.  Lilly, Ellen and Gabriel discover Rose’s connection to the violin and the connection between Rose, English aristocrat Paul Havenden, and another young musician, Helen Carter.

Pros:  I like stories that move between the past and present.  The historical setting (the Dutch and English colonial period in the 1800s and early 1900s) and locations (Germany, London, Italy and Indonesia) are interesting.  I like the interaction between Lilly and Ellen, and the musical mystery adds to the story.  People dealing with loss and moving on are good themes to work with.  The transitions between present-day and the early 20th century are fairly smooth.

Cons:    I initially did not like Rose at all. She is a very self-centered character in my opinion.  I understood later that the abuse she suffered from her music teacher was a large contributing factor, but she still isn’t very likable.  I didn’t like Paul either. Paul telling Rose he is engaged when he is married is reprehensible, and it is stupid of Rose to get involved with him.  Of course, she didn’t know he was actually married, but she did believe he was engaged, and it’s wrong in that case too.   This sort of content doesn’t make a story better.  Helen comes off as being a spoiled brat too.  I understand people behave selfishly and do stupid things when they are searching for happiness and fulfillment or are dealing with stressful situations, but this is not well-executed here.  It’s okay for characters to be flawed, but they should have some likable qualities.  The ending is kind of confusing and leaves a lot of unanswered questions.   I really couldn’t figure out exactly who the original owner of the violin is supposed to be.

I should point out that The Moonlit Garden is originally in German.  It can be tricky to convey meaning or concept accurately when translating from one language to another, so that may be a factor.  The actual writing is good, and the descriptions of the various locations are well-done. I did like The Moonlit Garden in spite of the issues I mentioned, but it’s not a book I’d go out of my way to read again.

Breakwater

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Jade is a 17-year-old mermaid who lives in the underwater city of Thessalonike.  Her mother is a trusted advisor of the mer-king, and Jade’s family is upper-class and privileged.

When Jade’s fiancé, Tor, murders a naiad, the resulting unrest puts Jade’s family in danger and threatens the well-being of Thessalonike.  Jade is faced with making decisions for the greater good that will result in her making sacrifices.

Breakwater is enjoyable, well-written and imaginative.  I like mermaid stories, and admit I love Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  However, there is more to this story than a young mermaid falling in love with a human and living happily ever after.  There are relevant themes of political intrigue, prejudice and helping others.  Jade is a likable character, and I like how she grows, deals with her own prejudices and decides to do the right thing.  I also love Jade’s relationship with Kiki, her dolphin.

I would recommend Breakwater.

Flaming Tree

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This is the cover of the paperback edition of Flaming Tree that I read.

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This is the cover of the hardcover edition, and actually fits better with the storyline.  The cover was changed for the paperback edition, probably to play up the romance which isn’t really the main point of the story, although it is a factor.

Kelsey Stewart is a physical therapist who works with children who have been injured.  She is devoted to her job, but goes through a rough time when she is in a car accident that takes the life of her young son Mark.  To make things worse, Kelsey’s husband Carl blames her for the tragedy and their marriage ends.

Kelsey is introduced to the Hammond family through her Aunt Elaine.  Tyler Hammond is going through his own trials because of an accident that has left his son Jody brain damaged and his wife Ruth unable to walk.  By helping Jody, Kelsey begins the healing process, faces her challenges, and uncovers some dark family secrets.

I liked this book.  The setting is wonderful.  I’ve been to the Carmel area, although it has been quite a while, and it is gorgeous.  Kelsey is a strong, likeable character. The interaction between her and the other characters, particularly Jody and Tyler, is well done.  The themes of healing by helping others and dealing with secrets are interesting.  Flaming Tree is worth reading.

The Devil’s Dance

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Romi Lachlan is a young woman with her share of challenges.  Her fiancé, Phil Gerald, has disappeared, taking the money from Verify, the tech company where they are employed, with him. Romi is broke, blackballed and unable to find a job.  As a result, she is forced to move back to her childhood home, a trailer park in Bisby, Texas. Her dysfunctional family further complicates matters.

But things have changed in Bisby; the once poor area is now prosperous.  With the help of an FBI agent, Ben Sawyer, who initially appears to be investigating her involvement with Phil’s fleecing Verify, Romi sets out to uncover a number of secrets.

This book is engaging and enjoyable; Ms. Lamb is an excellent writer.  Romi is a likeable, strong character, and I love the interaction between her and Sawyer and her crazy-as-loons family.  The book is fast-paced.  There are several story arcs but this is executed in a logical manner and holds the reader’s interest.  I did wonder somewhat about Romi’s snarky comments throughout the story, but came to realize this is a defense mechanism to deal with stress.  The snarky attitude is covering vulnerability.   There is an element of reconciliation and putting the past to rest that I like a lot also.

The Devil’s Dance is a worthwhile read.

Firstborn

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In Firstborn, the sequel to The Progeny which I blogged about HERE, Audra Ellison discovers the secret she sacrificed her memory and identity to protect.  Now she is on the run and struggling to control her powers.  With the help of a heretic monk and her friends Claudia, Piotrek and Jester, Audra sets out to save someone she cares for deeply and end a centuries-old war.

There was a delay in the release of the second book in the Descendants of the House of Bathory series, but it was worth the wait.  Audra is a strong character, and there is a lot of action.  The idea of being on the run makes for a good story.  I especially like the interaction between Audra, Luka, Claudia, Piotrek and Jester, their friendship and how they care for each other.

I would highly recommend Firstborn; this is a very enjoyable book.

The Restorer

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Amelia Gray has an unusual job as a cemetery restorer, and can see ghosts, an ability her father also has.  While restoring a graveyard in Charleston, a body that doesn’t belong there is found, and Amelia assists Detective John Devlin (who has his own secrets and abilities) in the investigation.

I like Amelia’s unique job, and the setting in Charleston.  There is so much history in the South; the grave restoration profession is intriguing.  The background information about Amelia’s childhood and how her father gives her rules to follow is interesting.  Devlin is a mysterious character, and the interaction between Devlin and Amelia is well-done.  I would recommend this book (the first in the Graveyard Series by Amanda Stevens).

Fairy Keeper (World of Aluvia Book 1)

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Fourteen-year-old Sierra Quinn is a fairy keeper in the world of Aluvia, and she hates this, primarily because she feels trapped in a life she didn’t choose.  This is compounded by her abusive father, Jack, who uses the fairy nectar Sierra collects to make illegal elixir rather than for healing.  It doesn’t help that these fairies are more like bees and can be very annoying and irritable.

Sierra discovers the young fairies she takes care of are dead and the queen is missing. When Jack trades her sister Phoebe to be an elixir runner to make up for lost income, Sierra goes on a journey with her best friend, Corbin, worst enemy, Nell, and Micah, a faun they meet along the way.  Together, they work to make things right and rescue Phoebe.

Fairy Keeper is imaginative and well-written.  It’s interesting that the fairies aren’t the cute little creatures in most stories.  I like the interaction between the characters and the descriptions of the forest and mountains.  I especially like the way Sierra comes to terms with her calling and how she begins to try to understand why people (specifically Nell) behave the way they do.  I would recommend Fairy Keeper, and I want to read the next book in the series, Mer-Charmer.