Luke Gracias “The Devil’s Prayer” – A Review

the-devils-prayer-luke-graciasStory  ★★ 
Writing ★  
Cover Mystery 

PROS: Captivating
      Suspenseful
      Strong characters
      Beautiful narrative

CONS: Slow beginning

Oh Boy.

I finally finished The Devil’s Prayer and I still can’t stop my heart racing with excitement. It has been a while since I had read a book this good. And boy was it good!

The Devil’s Prayer is a historical fiction, and even more a thriller in its way. It opens in Spain, in a convent, with the death of a nun. The first pages set the tone for the whole book, with the reader forming instantly questions, such as What are the pages the nun stole from an ancient book? Why did she steal them? Why would monks of her rank be after her? and Why would she kill herself as a result? We then learn that the nun had two daughters, Siobhan and Jess, and of the two, Siobhan is the one after the truth about her mother’s unusual death. Without going into details, and not wanting to spoil the book for you, Siobhan flies out to Spain, to pay her respects to her mother’s body and maybe learn the real reason why their mother abandoned them a few years earlier to become a nun, and why she decided to end her days so abruptly. When she gets to Spain, what Siobhan finds is more than what she had bargained for, as she retrieves her mother’s confession and learns her ties to the Devil and the importance of the Devil’s Prayer.

At the beginning of the book, I could not help but draw some comparison and similarities with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, but as I read more, The Devil’s Prayer stood on it’s own. Luke Gracias did a fantastic job with his debut novel, offering an interesting and pretty well researched background on religious belief, while exploring the coexistence of Good and Evil, of God and the Devil. He masterfully shapes the story throughout various timelines, both during Sister Benedictine’s time (who is the mother of Siobhan), as well as way back to the 1220s. Although the book started a bit slow, the pace quickly picks up once we enter the “Confession” part of the book. The Devil is revealed and with him, human’s love for a good bargain. The narrative and its characters are strong, and Gracias masterfully uses historical timelines to tell his story, and draw the reader in suspense with a major cliffhanger waiting for them at the end of the book. Throughout the book, one has to put aside his/hers preconceived notions about Good and Evil, and foremost about religion in itself and embrace, even if it’s just as a work of fiction, the possibility that “maybe” as we pray to God, the Devil also listens, stirring along dreadful events for which we just have no explanations.

If you love historical fiction, fast paced suspenseful stories, mysteries, religious conspiracies…then you will love The Devil’s Prayer. I could not put it down from the moment I picked it up, and I am glad I was offered the opportunity to read it and review it fro you all. I am very impressed by the details and the research Luke Gracias has performed for his story, and I cannot wait to read more from him in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley, author Luke Gracias, and Australian eBook Publisher for an ARC of The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias, in exchange for an honest review.


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 Language: English
 Genre:Historical, Horror, Thriller, Fiction
 ASIN: B01BXR4838
 Published: February 18, 2016
 Publisher: Australian eBook Publisher
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Lucy Atkin’s “The Missing One” – A review

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*This review was originally posted on Skattered Notes Blog.com*

Dear ones,

I am finally taking the time to write this long awaited review of Lucy Atkins’ debut novel! As they say, better late than never. Since the release of this book, Lucy Atkins has written a second novel, The Other Child.
Author
Story   
Writing
Cover  
Mystery

PROS
Captivating
Thrilling
Strong characters
Beautiful narratives
Tense

CONS
Long narratives
Slow beginning

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Language: English
Genre:General Fiction
Adult Fiction
            Thriller
            Mystery

ISBN-10:

9781623659899

Published: Feb 3, 2015
Publisher: Quercus

DISCLAIMER
The Missing One, debut novel of Lucy Atkins, was kindly provided for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher Quercus.

What drew me to this book was not only the beautiful cover, but the mysterious title. I had questions such as “Who was missing?” and “What is the whales connection?” when i picked up my copy of the novel. Because this was Lucy Atkins’ debut novel, I had no previous background on her writing style.

As Lucy Atkins shares in the video above, the story starts with the death of Kali’s mother – Elena. Kali is going through a lot at this period of her life, a lot due to her uncertainties about things and the people in her life. As I turned the pages, it was obvious that Kali holds a grudge against her mom, while desperately seeking closure. The novel is written from two sides: as a flashback from Elena’s life, and as a present scene depicted by Kali.

Although I found this going back and forth between the past and the present a bit difficult to digest the novel and progress through it, I also was surprised by how well each scene was described. Lucy Atkins had me wrapped up in her beautiful imageries, and I felt transported to the British Columbia she so well describes. Despite the fact that at times some narratives seemed a bit too long for my taste, I couldn’t resolve to leave the book without having reached its end.

As Kali meets Susannah, the woman who has been sending her mother postcards for years, in an attempt to learn more about the woman her mother really was, the story starts to take a very interesting turn. The novel becomes darker and darker, with angry landscapes and muted notes. I found my heartbeat pick up a bit as I felt the danger nearing Kali and her baby Finn. I wanted her to stop searching for the truth regarding her mother and just go back to England, to her comfort zone. But as I worried for her and Finn, I also wanted to discover the secrets that had been hidden from her her whole life.

As a debut novel, I must say that Lucy Atkins set the bar pretty high. The tone was right, the narratives and characters were strong. There was no unnecessary word uttered, no unnecessary scene. Everything fell into place by the end of the novel, just like a puzzle game, revealing the big picture. It took me a while to get through the book, because it was so intense with descriptions of whales and Elena’s work with them, I felt the  need to put it down to absorb it fully. I could have done without such detailed accounts of whale-studies,but I understand that they were necessary for the sake of the story-line. Now, I will admit that it also took a while to even understand where the story was going, with all the back and forth between Elena’s past and Kali’s present. However, I am glad I stuck with it, as as soon had Kali reached Susannah, the book began to climax. Overall I did enjoy this book, which is really packed with intensity leading to a discovery of a really dark past.  I think readers of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and lovers of anything thrilling/dark will enjoy this book.

Time Travel with Melanie Gideon’s Valley of the Moon | A Book Review

valley-of-the-moon-book

Author ★★
Story ★★★★
Writing ★★
Cover ★★★PROS
Entertaining
Great narrative
Powerful charactersCONS

BUY THE BOOK

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MELANIE GIDEON

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Language: English
Genres:
Literary Fiction
Historical Fiction
Time Travel
Women’s Fiction
ISBN-10:0345539281
Published: July 26,2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books

As a NetGalley member, I often receive their newsletter informing me of the books that will soon be available/are available for request. When I saw the Valley of the Moon in one of these newsletters, I was not much impressed by its cover – it was a bit too messy in my opinion. However, its title – it was filled with mystery and with a promise of an interesting journey just waiting to be taken in between its pages.

And so I requested to read it in exchange for my honest opinion.

And I am glad I did.

Valley of the Moon is Melanie Gideon’s third book and second novel. It is also my very first introduction to Melanie as an author. Valley of the Moon is told from the perspective of two main characters – Lux and Joseph. I am not sure why, but I am a sucker for books told from different point of views. Maybe because they make you feel omnipresent and in a way god-like; always aware of the truth that either character ignores. Seeing how the novel was structured, reinforced my desire to dive into it.

Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time—until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world—her adored son—and the first place she has ever felt truly at home.

The narrative takes us back and forth between the early 1900s and the 1980s. Joseph – trapped in 1908, and Lux mainly living in 1980 and finding her way back to 1908. As the story unveils, we learn from both characters their troubled pasts with their fathers, the lack of love they felt growing up, and the desire to build a future together, despite the unlikely circumstances. Both characters are relatable, and it is easy to root for them and become attached. Although Lux at first appears to be a mess – working at a restaurant and barely making ends meets for her and her son Benno, I loved discovering that she was more than her crappy job, and more than the poor life choices she had made up until her visit to Greengage. It is easy to feel empathetic toward her as she tries to better her life and her son’s while trying to maintain the relationship she is building with the people of Greengage, and Joseph in particular. Despite what appeared as her shortcomings, Lux proves to be a person of her word, and a fighter. She is someone one would love to have as a friend or a parent. It is also interesting to see that the all composed, well behaved Joseph is just a human like the rest of us, one that feels guilt, that tries to do and be better, and one who is always ready to lend a hand, and his ear.

Valley of the Moon is a beautiful story of love, hope, redemption and possibilities. It sucks you in the moment you open its pages, keeping you on your toes throughout the novel. It is packed with powerful (read emotional) paragraphs, offering a somewhat unexpected twist to the story that really took me by surprise. I couldn’t help myself from worrying for Lux, Benno, and Joseph, nor could I stop the tears from rolling down. Melanie Gideon created a masterpiece, a novel so powerful that you are left feeling all kinds of emotions at the same time: sad, happy, hopeful, and so much more. Valley of the Moon is a real page turner, and a book I think anyone into time travel, women’s fiction and touchy-feely narrative, will really enjoy this book. I am already looking forward to reading more from Melanie and maybe even see Valley of the Moon being someday adapted onto the big screen (wishful thinking?).

I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Book Review |Victoria Crossing by Michael Wallace

Author

Story    ★★★

Writing ★★

Cover   ★★

Humor

 

PROS

Entertaining

Well written

Endearing

Feminist

CONS

 

 

BUY THE BOOK
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Language: English

Genres:

Literary Fiction

Historical Fiction

Women’s Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 1503934136

Published: May 17,2016

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

 

This was a well-written book, with a plot that sucks you in as soon as you open the first pages. The novel is set in 1851 after the Potato Famine that struck Ireland, forcing Maeve and Victoria to flee to New York in order to survive. It is on the same ship that the two young women bond, and due to circumstances (Maeve’s brother fails to meet her at the port of arrival, and Victoria gets her money stolen by a crook), they decide to join forces to improve their circumstances.

Throughout the book, we get a glimpse at the danger the young women face in the industrial Manhattan, with crooks luring around. We also understand that there is a past unknown of Maeve regarding hers and Victoria friendship. When Maeve’s brother finally comes into the picture, and the chips start to fall where they belong, Maeve’s and Victoria’s friendship is tested.

I loved that Mr. Wallace has led us in connecting with each character, understanding where everyone came from. This is not just a tale of friendship and loyalty, but also a tale of love. It is also a tale of being an immigrant. Being one myself, I could particularly relate to the hardships one faces trying to make a home away from home. More importantly, I loved that the story praises the strength of women and their loyalty, instead of tearing them down as most novels tend to do with pity women jealousies. Although not political in itself, Victoria Crossing is a great reminder of the power women hold, as well as a reminder of  what one can do when surrounded by great friends.

Victoria Crossing was full of excitement, intrigue, and suspense from the beginning until the end. And what an end it was! I could hardly believe how the story turned out, expecting a very typical High Victorian period novel ending only to be pleasantly surprised.  All in all, Michael Wallace is a great storyteller and I leave it to you to find out.

Thank you to Michael Wallace, Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for giving me a free e-ARC of this book to read and the opportunity to give my honest review.

Book Review | Not Working by Lisa Owens

Book Review| Not Working by Lisa OwensDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Author

Story    ★★★

Writing ★★

Cover  

Humor ★★★★

 

PROS

Funny

Entertaining

 

CONS

No real resolution

 

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Language: English

Genres:

Humor & Satire

Literary Fiction

Contemporary Fiction

Women’s Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 0812988817

Published: May 3, 2016

Publisher: The Dial Press

DISCLAIMER

Not Working, debut novel of Lisa Owens, was kindly provided to me for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher The Dial Press. Read the full disclaimer here.

Twenty-something Londoner Claire has just resigned from her job without a plan–and although she is pleased, her family and friends can’t seem to understand. Before too long, she manages to push away both her safe, steady, brain-surgeon boyfriend and her difficult but loving mother.
Quirky, questioning Claire hilariously navigates and comments on the emotions and minutiae of day-to-day life as only someone without the distractions of a regular routine can.

 

I was in need of an easy read and was happy to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Not Working. The description promised a funny, laugh-out-laud novel, and I was ready for it.

The novel starts of in an unusual format – a conversation with a passing stranger, which threw me off a bit, but a few pages into the novel, I found my pace. Lisa Owen’s writing style is very catchy, and easy to read. Claire’s voice is so genuine, that I couldn’t help myself from relating to her, feeling compassionate for some of her everyday struggles, as she tries to find herself, and her raison d’être. After all, we’ve all been there at some point of our lives: asking ourselves what is our life purpose, and what type of job should we be doing.  Claire takes on to find it out with humor, and from the second page onto the last, I couldn’t help but smile at her (mis)happenings. Not Working is very Ernest in its genre, filled with fun, and real moments. How often did I find myself nodding, agreeing with Claire, because that is exactly what I would usually do, or how I would usually handle one situation? I think this novel will appeal to many, as everyone can relate to some degree to the protagonist.

Despite the great time I had reading the book, I was a bit left hanging at the end, with Claire still in search of herself, and her future still uncertain. I wish Lisa Owens would have brought some resolution to the story, offered some wisdom even, or left a hint as to what the character could look forward to. Instead we are left with just having to imagine what can come next, hoping that someday, just like in real life, Claire might finally find herself. Maybe, all along, that was the whole point of the story? To point out that just like in real life, Claire’s future was yet to be decided?

Overall, I truly enjoyed Not Working. If you are looking for something quick to pass the time, for something to make you laugh at times and make you smile, don’t hesitate to give this novel a chance. As for me, I am already looking forward to Lisa Owens’ next novel.

Book Review |The Longest Night by Andria Williams

Book Review: The Longest Night by Andria WilliamsDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to the Disclaimer page for more information.

 

Author

Story    ★★

Writing

Cover  

Mystery

 

PROS

Captivating

Filled with tension

Well contructed scenes and characters

CONS

Tedious read

Long to climax

 

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MORE INFO

Language: English

Genres:

Women’s Fiction

Historical Fiction

Literary Fiction

Contemporary Women

Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 0812997743

Published: January 12, 2016

Publisher: Random House

DISCLAIMER

The Longest Night, debut novel of Andria Williams, was kindly provided for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher Random House. Read the full disclaimer here.

In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country’s first nuclear reactors—an assignment that seems full of opportunity.

Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can’t bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.

Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point.

 

Andria Williams’ debut novel is charged with tension from the very first page until the last. The Longest Night, mainly set in Idaho Falls in 1960s, tells the story from the point of view of both Nat and Paul as they navigate through their married life. Paul is in the military, and his current assignment is to work at the site of a nuclear reactor. Nat, originally from San Diego and a free spirit at heart, has to readjust to a new life in the small town, all the while not quite fitting into the expected military wife role. In the background we also dive into other character’s lives, such as the Sergeant Richards and his wife Jeannine, Esrom among other third type characters. The tension comes from everywhere, and Williams does a fantastic job at holding it all together without giving in, and letting the reader guess the end. The eminent explosion of the reactor Paul is sent to work on is constantly looming over the character’s lives, making the reader wonder if there will be a good end to all of this. Throughout the novel, there is a strong sense of time and place, which gives a real dimension to the story.

However, so much tension can also be exhausting. The novel is not always easy to read, with passages that stretch for long periods. In fact, the novel doesn’t really start to pick up until about 60% into the book. For those  used to get to the climax of the story much sooner, this novel can prove to be challenging to read. The characters always seem to linger in certain situations, leaving the reader wondering whether or not some action will soon come along. I for one thought numerous times that the novel should have been renamed to “The Longest Story”, as it never seemed to want to end. Only my determination to get to the bottom of this story helped me get through the long beginning. That, and the fact that one has no clue as to the direction of the book, makes it quite a challenging read. However, the moment Paul is sent away from his family the story picks up pace, with more tension but also with more thrill filled in each page. The pages then just rolled under my fingers, my eyes hungry for more.

Ultimately, The Longest Night is a powerful debut novel, beautifully written and constantly moving forward – even if with some urgency. Even though I still think the beginning was too long, I must admit it was necessary to get the reader to the climax of the story, and to shape the whole “aha!” moment, when all is revealed, and the tensions are broken. Andria Williams crafted a well laid out novel, which doesn’t waste time on unnecessary scenes or unnecessary words. If one can bear long narratives, this is a novel to give a chance to. I promise, it will stir something within you.

07. Ghost of Girlfriend’s Past.

There she was, sitting on the other side of the vitrine, carelessly leaning into her companion, touching his hand with one of hers, while teasing her long dark locks with the other. She seemed engrossed into the conversation, blushing at times, her lips slowly stretching into a smile, while her mouth opened and closed to words that would remain a secret to the onlookers, and more importantly to Jane.

As Jane stood outside of the small coffee shop, looking in, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It had been a long time since they last spoke, but at this moment, everything seemed just like before. Sarah didn’t look much different from six years ago. Her hair was still long, stubbornly curling around her always glowing complexion. Her green eyes were focused, like two moons ready to engulf the darkness. How many times had Jane wiped away their rivers? How many times had she trusted their innocent reflections? As she stood there, slowly letting past memories flood over her, Jane suddenly found herself gasping for more air. Was it just her, or was the air stuffier? Forcing herself to step back from the glass surface, she strode away, putting some distance between her past and what seemed to be her imminent present.

Three blocks later, Jane finally slowed down her pace, matching the ongoing traffic on the sidewalk. She had ran away as if she had seen the devil in person. How was it possible that one person – who had meant so much to her at one point in her life, how could she stir up so many contradicting feelings within her? Jane was puzzled, and even more so, frustrated. Her day had started so well! Now, the sight of an old friend rained on her parade. But why? she asked herself,reaching a familiar place – the local grocery store. As she perused down the produce isle, Jane thought about relationships, and more specifically about bad breakups. They left you empty handed, exhausted and heart broken. There was no immediate cure to pain, nothing that didn’t require time and many hours of counseling. It wasn’t just about past boyfriends, even female friendships hélas! – were not immune to this condition.

Jane was a big proponent of the “everything happens for a reason” ideology. She used it to justify all of her heartbreaks, be they professional or more personal. She thought the Universe was trying to teach her something, that if only she took her time to listen, then maybe she would be rewarded with better opportunities. After all, didn’t they say “when one door closes, another opens”? When she had closed her door (literally) on Sarah six years ago, she was convinced that it was what needed to happen. In her mind, there was nothing left to put back together. No glue in the whole wide world could fix their broken friendship. Jane had had enough of perpetually being trapped inside Sarah’s never-ending drama. She was mentally exhausted of always picking up the pieces, just as she was tired of always being the one to collect all the blame. As painful as it had been to detach herself from the one person she had thought she’d be linked to indefinitely, it was a decision she had had to make. So why was she doubting herself at this moment, when so much time had passed? Seeing Sarah had sown new seeds of doubts.

Of course, Jane knew deep inside, that she had made the right decision for her at that time. As hard as it had been to separate herself from Sarah, she needed to distance herself from the young woman. Sarah always acted with her own interest in mind, not really worrying whether or not she was walking over people. There was always this sense of entitlement about her. That, and also this impulsiveness about everything. One moment they would be sitting quietly in the library, studying for their upcoming exam, and a moment later, they were driving to the next state to crash a party that a friend of Sarah’s was throwing. Sometimes even, Sarah would drag Jane to her blind dates, before ditching her for her beau-du-jour. She never seemed to worry about Jane, never seemed to care whether or not she was putting her through uncomfortable situations. Did she even care? Jane would often ask herself. Sure, Jane too could have protested, thrown her own fits, refuse to tag along, but she hadn’t reached her threshold. She could cope with an occasional incident, she could be the better friend, the plane Jane, the one who made sure they never left their homes without having fully charged phones, or be the one who would ensure they both had a safe way to get back home. There was never a dull moment, it was always a go-go rhythm, and Jane frankly didn’t know how to press on pause. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Maybe it was the good times that brought her these moments of doubts? Or was it the way she had put stop to their friendship? Jane knew it was mostly the later.

She did miss Sarah at times, especially when a song they both used to like came on the radio, or when someone passed her by, trailing behind the same smell as did her long lost friend. Hélas, too much blood had spilled between them during the last year of their friendship. Too many ugly words were voiced, fingers were pointed, objects were thrown. They had tried their best to patch things up, pretend they were not diverging from one another, refusing to accept that one bad year could undue many good ones. Yet, eventually, there was no more fighting left in Jane. She had given her all to this friendship, and she had to go. So after one last big fight, where Sarah called her names, Jane had had it. She threw Sarah out of her apartment, and before slamming the door on her friend, told her to go fuck herself.

The end of their friendship ironically coincided with the end of their undergraduate degree. Eventually they both moved away, started new lives somewhere, and Jane never thought she’d see Sarah ever again. The world was really a small place to live in, wasn’t it? As she walked back home from the grocery store, Jane stopped. She turned and retraced her steps back to the coffee shop, wondering if she would still find Sarah there. She believed the Universe was testing her resolve to put the past behind, and maybe even give her another chance to do things the right way; to politely part ways? This idea brought her some comfort. But was that even possible, at this stage? She didn’t want Sarah back into her life, of that she was certain, but she also didn’t want to go through life dragging their painful separation, replaying it over and over as a movie of poor taste.

Back in front of the coffee shop vitrine, Jane took a deep breath in. She peaked through the glass, only to find the seat where Sarah had been sitting moments ago vacated. A wave of relief and sadness washed over her. Relief to not have to confront her past, sadness for not getting a chance to do so. Stepping back from the glass surface for the second time that day, Jane turned away, colliding into a pedestrian. When she looked up, ready to serve her apologies, Sarah stood in her way.

 

Total Word Count: 1,257